A Libyan ship carrying 2,000 tonnes of aid bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip is en route to an Egyptian port after its captain decided to comply with Israeli demands to change course.
The Moldovan flagged Almathea is said to be heading to the port of El Arich where Egyptian government officials plan to transfer its declared haul of food and medicine overland to neighbouring Gaza.
If the vessel attempts to head for the Strip Israeli warships plan to intercept and escort it to the port of Ashdod on the coast of Israel.
The Hamas leader in Gaza urged the ship’s captain to defy the blockade. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah said: “Don’t accept to go in an other direction than Gaza. You must continue until your reach the goal for which you came.”
For the past three years Israel has been enforcing an economic blockade on the Gaza Strip – only allowing in limited humanitarian aid.
Six weeks ago nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos boarded another aid ship.
Israel is attempting to isolate the Islamist Hamas leadership in Gaza which they claim is attempting to bring weapons into the Palestinian territory.