libyan almathea ship.jpgA Libyan ship, initially bent on breaking Israel’s Gaza blockade, has reportedly docked in Egypt after agreeing to deliver its cargo of aid through Egyptian territory.

The news ended fears of a new confrontation between activists and the Israeli navy, which had threatened to use force if the ship did not either turn back or head for Egypt.

The Libyan charity which chartered the vessel, the Kadhafi Foundation, said it had obtained guarantees from Cairo and from a “European mediator” that Israel would allow the ship’s cargo of 2 000 tonnes of food and medicine into Gaza.


The charity’s executive director, Yusef Sawan, said Libya has also received the green light to spend $50m towards housing construction in the Gaza Strip by winter, adding that the foundation would also provide 500 prefabricated houses.


Earlier, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Cairo had received a request for the Amalthea to get its cargo of aid to Gaza through Egyptian territory.


“As soon as the ship arrives in El-Arish, Egyptian authorities will unload its cargo and hand the aid to the Egyptian Red Crescent, which will deliver it to the Palestinian side,” he said.


Port officials said they expected the Amalthea to be unloaded today.


On May 31, Israeli commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists and sparking an international outcry.


A senior Israeli military official had told the Maariv daily that the navy was not expecting any problems from those on board the Libyan-chartered vessel but they were prepared to respond if it became necessary.


“We do not expect any resistance,” he said. “But if our soldiers do encounter problems, they will not hesitate to use force.”

In the face of the outcry over its deadly commando operation in May, Israel agreed to ease its four-year-old land blockade of Gaza.


Israel says it now blocks only weapons and other goods which could be of military use to the Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Palestinian territory.


It insists that its naval blockade will remain in place, however, to prevent Palestinian armed groups from bringing in weapons by sea.


Earlier this week, the Israeli military published the results of an internal inquiry into the May raid, which found that while mistakes had been made, the troops’ use of live fire was “justified”.


And Israel again defended its actions during a hearing of the UN Human Rights Committee on Wednesday.