Cairo, Athens, Asharq Al-Awsat- Disregarding Israeli threats, the Libyan aid ship ‘Hope’ continues towards Gaza carrying resources and food aid.
The Gaddafi Development Foundation, supervising the ship’s journey, said in a statement to ‘Asharq Al-Awsat’ that information received from the ship stated it was in international waters yesterday afternoon, far from the island of Crete, and continuing its journey on schedule.
The ship revealed that the trip was progressing in a normal fashion so far, and it is expected to arrive in Gaza tomorrow, this being the approximate deadline. It also confirmed the importance of its humanitarian nature and a peaceful exchange, and the absence of any provocative intentions.
The Foundation announced that the trip was progressing naturally, and the ship was able to continue to sail in appropriate conditions, indicating that the ship had moved around 100 kilometers from Crete, and continued to sail towards Gaza in international waters. The Foundation clarified that its team on board the ship said morale was high and the crew were enjoying good health and preparing to arrive in Gaza.
In Athens, the owner of the ship ‘Hope’, Greek businessman Alexy Angelopolos, confirmed in an exclusive statement to ‘Asharq Al-Awsat’ that the ship was on its way to the Gaza Strip without any problems so far (yesterday afternoon). It has been decided that the ship will aim to arrive tomorrow morning, reaffirming its categorical refusal in relation to the proposal to sail to the port of Ashdod. Angelopolos said “If this is the only option offered by the Israeli authorities, then we will choose to sail to the Egyptian El-Arish port and transfer the aid by ground to Gaza”.
Angelopolos told ‘Asharq Al-Awsat’ that “I say to the Israeli authorities that the ship carries humanitarian aid in terms of food resources (flour, rice, children’s milk, oils and medication), and there are no weapons or forbidden items as claimed by Israeli authorities… and if the Israeli navy want, then board the ship and inspect these resources until they convince themselves that we carry only food resources and they leave us to unload the shipment at Gaza port.”
The ship owner confirmed that the vessel left on Monday from local Greek waters, and entered international waters around 20 or 30 nautical miles from Gaza port. It will be contacted by the Israeli navy in order to obtain an entrance permit to Gaza without any hostile operations or provocations, and then travel to Gaza. If that does not happen the ship will refuse any proposal on behalf of the Israelis to travel to an Israeli port, and will choose the Egyptian port of El-Arish instead.
‘Hope’, a 92-metre long cargo ship owned by the Greek company ‘ASA’, bearing the flag of Moldova, with a Cuban captain, set sail last Saturday evening, in the direction of the besieged Gaza Strip. On board is humanitarian aid from the Gaddafi Development Foundation, which is supervised by Saif Al-Islam, son of the Libyan leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi. Also on board are 12 sailors of different nationalities; Syrian, Cuban, Haitian and Indian, in addition to 9 activists; 6 of whom are Libyan and the others from Nigeria, Morocco and Algeria.
It is worth noting that the Greek authorities displayed a lot of interest in providing aid to the ship, and trade unions also cooperated with the initiative. In December 2008, Libya sent the ship ‘Marwa’ carrying aid to Gaza; however the Israeli navy prevented it from unloading its contents of 3 tons of food resources, medicines and various aids, after Israeli boats intercepted it.