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Libyan Aid Ship Sails to Egypt Instead of Gaza

A potential confrontation on Wednesday was averted off the coast of the blockaded Gaza Strip.

After a two-day standoff on the high seas, a Libyan aid ship that planned to defy Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip changed course and docked in Egypt. Israeli gunboats had flanked the ship, warning it not to sail to Gaza.

The captain of the Amalthea sent this radio message to the Israeli navy, saying he would sail to the nearby Egyptian port of el-Arish on the Mediterranean:

"My goal will be 120, 120 from this position to el-Arish, over," said Amalthea's captain by radio.

The Israeli response:

"120 is perfect."

Bill Van Esfeld, Human Rights Watch, speaks with VOA's Susan Yackee:

The ship, which was hired by a Libyan charity, is carrying some 2,000 tons of food and medical supplies for the Palestinians. It sailed from Greece six weeks after Israeli commandos intercepted an aid flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade. Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, sparking international outrage.

Israel allows international aid into Gaza over land, but it enforces a naval blockade to prevent weapons from reaching the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas.

The ship's diversion was a disappointment to the Palestinians.

Earlier, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh had urged the ship to sail to Gaza. He also urged activists to launch more boats with aid for Gaza.