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Libyan Aid Ship for Gaza Unloading Supplies in Egypt

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  • VOA's Meredith Buel on impact of the flotilla blockade on Israel's international reputation

An aid group in Egypt has begun unloading supplies from a Libyan ship that initially tried to break through Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt's Red Crescent Society began the process Thursday of unloading the estimated 2,000 tons of aid aboard the Amalthea, preparing it for transport to Gaza by land.  The ship docked late Wednesday at Egypt's El-Arish port.

Egyptian officials say the aid will go through Israeli checkpoints.  The Libyan-based charity that sponsored the Amalthea says some of its representatives will accompany the aid, but that its delegation will not include the nine pro-Palestinian activists who had traveled on the ship itself.

VOA's Meredith Buel speaks with Middle East Monitor host Susan Yackee:

The Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation had wanted the ship to take the supplies directly to Gaza.  But officials said they docked at the Egyptian port late Wednesday to avoid a confrontation with the Israeli navy.  Activists on the ship said Israeli naval vessels repeatedly blocked their attempts to reach Gaza by sea.  The foundation's executive director, Youssef Sawani, also said the Israelis even threatened to take over the ship if it persisted in its attempts to break through the naval blockade.

An Israeli spokesman denied an ultimatum had been given.

Six weeks ago, Israeli commandos intercepted another Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine activists - eight Turks and one Turkish-American - and sparking international outrage. Israel says its forces acted in self-defense after passengers on the Turkish aid ship attacked them.

Since the fatal encounter in May, global pressure has forced Israel to ease its land blockade on Gaza to allow in goods that do not have a potential military use.  

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged Libya on Tuesday to avoid confrontation and allow the Israelis to inspect the vessel, said to be carrying 2,000 tons of aid supplies.  The activists on board the Amalthea are affiliated with the ship's sponsor, a charity run by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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