Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:17 am (KSA) 21:17 pm (GMT)

Aid ship to sail from Greece for blockaded Gaza

An aerial view of the Mavi Marmara, one of the "Freedom Flotilla" vessels raided by Israeli forces in late May, shows well-wishers at the dock.
An aerial view of the Mavi Marmara, one of the "Freedom Flotilla" vessels raided by Israeli forces in late May, shows well-wishers at the dock.

A charity headed by the second son of Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi is sending an aid boat from Greece to Gaza on Friday to break the Israeli "siege," the organizers said

Nine pro-Palestinian activists died in May when Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship heading a Gaza-bound convoy, prompting world outcry, a crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations and a condemnation from the United Nations Security Council.

 We are doing what we can, if everybody steps back and says the Israelis will not allow it, nothing will happen and the people of Gaza will starve 
Youssef Sawani, executive director of the Gaddafi Foundation

Israel said its commandoes were attacked with knives and sticks when they boarded the ship and acted in self-defense.

"We are doing what we can, if everybody steps back and says the Israelis will not allow it, nothing will happen and the people of Gaza will starve," said Youssef Sawani, executive director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which is organizing the aid trip.

"We hope everything will go smoothly," he told reporters on Friday on board the Amalthea vessel, re-named Hope for the trip.

Ten supporters of the charity will be on board, as well as 12 crew, Sawani said in the south-eastern Greek port of Lavrio. The activists are Libyan apart from one Nigerian and a Moroccan. The crew includes Cubans, Haitians, Syrians and Indians.

"We will try to explain to the others that we are just helping people, we have nothing in the ship except rice, oil, tomatoes and flour, that's all we have, we don't have weapons," said Fabdalraof Jaziri, a Libyan engineer who will take part in the trip.

Israel has said its blockade was necessary to stop arms and materials it fears could be used for military purposes from reaching Gaza's Hamas Islamist rulers.

In the wake of the raid and the international outrage it caused, it has announced steps to ease the blockade of the enclave and set up an inquiry into the incident.

Sawani said he hoped to sail on Friday or early Saturday and the trip would take 70 to 80 hours.

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