A Libyan-chartered ship carrying aid for Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip loitered in international waters yesterday after the Israeli navy warned it to steer clear, a military spokeswoman said.
Egypt said late on Tuesday that the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea had asked to dock in its nearby El Arish port, while mission organizers insisted the ship would hold course to Gaza.
“It is 55 miles [88km] from Egypt and 80 miles from Gaza in international waters. We are observing,” the Israeli spokeswoman said. “From what I understand, it is stationary.”
Israel has vowed to turn away or seize the ship — renamed Hope by activists — rather than let it reach Gaza, whose Islamist Hamas rulers the Jewish state wants to keep isolated. But the Israelis are mindful of international censure that crested after their commandos killed nine Turks in May while boarding another Gaza-bound aid ship in international waters.
Asked on Israel Radio if the ship’s location might deter the navy from mounting an interception, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said: “I don’t want to get into matters linked to operational details ... but certainly that’s a consideration.”
The station also aired what it said was a recording of the ship’s captain informing navy negotiators by radio that his engineers were trying to fix mechanical problems. “I cannot tell you how much time will it take. As soon as we are ready, I’ll tell you, over,” he is heard saying in English.
A charity chaired by Saif al-Islam Qaddafi — son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi — which chartered the Amalthea said on Tuesday it would sail to Gaza with its declared cargo of 2,000 tonnes of food and medicine. Charity director Youssef Sawani rejected accounts of the ship’s El Arish destination as a ruse.
The confusion over where and when the Amalthea would dock prompted an Israeli official to suggest there was disagreement between the hired crew of 12 and some 10 pro-Palestinian activists aboard determined to defy the Gaza blockade.
Israel Radio aired what sounded like the navy warning the captain that he would be held responsible for any showdown at sea and legal ramifications. Other aid ships have been impounded in Israel, with some of their cargo eventually trucked to Gaza.
“You are in charge of the people on the ship, and any attempt to enter the area will be your fault only,” a voice that the radio identified as a navy negotiator is heard saying.
The Amalthea set sail from Greece on Saturday on a voyage that would ordinarily see it reach Gaza by yesterday. Rerouting to El Arish would still require the ship to skirt Gaza.
Al-Jazeera satellite channel, which has a correspondent aboard the ship, said four Israeli warships were in pursuit. Outcry at the bloodshed aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara prompted Israel to ease overland trade with Gaza, but it kept the sea blockade citing risk of arms shipments to Hamas.
“Both we and the Egyptians have a very great interest in ensuring that the Gaza Strip and Hamas do not stockpile weaponry and gain strength,” Ayalon said.
Unlike Libya, Egypt has full diplomatic relations with Israel.
On June 5, the navy commandeered the Irish-owned aid ship Rachel Corrie after it refused orders to turn back or dock in Israel for its cargo to be vetted for overland transfer to Gaza.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and