Gaza Strip aid ship departs Greece, diverts to Egypt

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Amalthea, renamed the Hope for its mission as an aid ship carrying goods bound for the Gaza Strip, departed the Greek port of Lavrio yesterday, but is reportedly diverting away from its original destination and now plans to dock at the Egyptian port of el-Arish.

The ship was chartered by Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation to carry goods such as food, medicine, and houses, as well as transporting 27 people described by the foundation as "supporters who are keen on expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people", to the Gaza Strip. The charitable organization's chairman is Saif al-Islam Muammar al-Gaddafi, the son of Muammar al-Gaddafi, the leader of Libya.

After talks between the Israeli, Greek and Moldovan governments, where the ship is registered, the destination was reportedly changed to Egypt. A statement from the Israeli government said that "due to these talks, the ship will not reach Gaza." This was later confirmed by Libyan authorities to the Greek government.

An official with the Libyan charity involved, Youssef Sawwan, denied any agreement. "We have not cut deals with anyone," he told the BBC Arabic service. "We are heading to Gaza for purely humanitarian reasons, we are not out to provoke anyone or to seek media attention."

A crew member on board the vessel said that although the current destination is Egypt, those on board are prepared to change course towards Gaza again, despite Israel's warning it will prevent the ship from breaking the blockade.