Thursday, November 27, 2008

Palestinians: Aid boat en route from Libya to Gaza

Libyan government dispatches boat laden with 3,000 tons of supplies to Gaza; Israeli official: Decision to ignore earlier ships was wise as it avoided bad publicity, so Israel should let this ship through as well, after checking its cargo
Associated Press

The Libyan government has dispatched a boat that will try to reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli sea blockade, a Palestinian lawmaker said Wednesday.

The ship left the Libyan port of Zuara carrying 3,000 tons of food, medicines, blankets and powdered milk, according to Jamal Khoudary, a member of the Palestinian legislature involved in organizing an international campaign against Israeli sanctions Khoudary said Libya's foreign ministry confirmed the ship was en route to Gaza and would arrive early next week. Libyan officials declined comment, but witnesses saw the al-Marwa boat leaving Zuara on Tuesday evening.

The Libyan ship follows three boats that have sailed to Gaza from Cyprus since August to break the Israeli blockade, imposed last year to put pressure on Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Those boats, organized by the private US-based Free Gaza group, carried international activists and some aid supplies. The Navy let them through, with IDF officials saying they wanted to deny the protesters the publicity they would gain from a confrontation.

'Israel should not automatically block ship'

The case of the Libyan ship, however, presents a far bigger test. It would be the first significant shipment of goods to reach the territory. It also is the first time such a journey had official government sponsorship.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor would not say how the State planned to handle the Libyan ship, saying only that each case is considered separately. The IDF had no immediate comment.

"Israel's decision to ignore the earlier ships was wise and avoided bad publicity, and Israel should consider letting this ship through as well for the same reason, after checking its cargo," said Shlomo Brom, a strategic expert at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

"Israel should not automatically block the ship because it comes from Libya," he said, noting the north African nation's pro-Western tilt in recent years.

"It depends what's on board. If there is something that can pose a threat, then Israel should stop it, but if not there is no good reason to do so," he said.

The closure on the Strip, due to continuous rocket fire towards Israel despite a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, has greatly limited the arrival of goods into Gaza and the area is suffering from a shortage of fuel and basic items.

About 10 trucks carrying aid and basic supplies entered Gaza on Wednesday, and Mahmoud Khazundar, who chairs an association of gas station owners in Gaza, said Israel allowed cooking gas in for the first time since early November.

He said 70 tons were to be sent in Wednesday and would be given to bakeries, about a dozen of which have shut down since the shortages began. But he said the gas was only a fraction of what Gaza needed.

Comment: International fairness, media objectivity: continuous reporting of Gaza closure by...Egypt! Hmmm, no such news item? Understand what is REALLY at play here-it is not what you are being lead to believe.

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