Israeli navy is on high alert as a Libyan aid ship heads for the Gaza Strip to break Israel’s naval blockade on the impoverished coastal sliver.
The navy is tracking the ship and has put forces on standby in case it needs to board the vessel, The Jerusalem Post cited Israeli defense ministry sources as saying.
The navy will make contact with the ship while it is still far from Gaza, likely in international waters, and request that it follow naval vessels into Ashdod Port, the sources said.
They also noted that Israel has prepared plans to attack the vessel if it refuses or does not agree to sail to Egypt.
Tel Aviv says allowing the ship to go ahead with its mission will have serious consequences for “Israel’s security,” vowing to prevent any seaborne aid fleet from breaking its siege of Gaza.
The Moldovan-flagged cargo ship, the Amalthea, organized by the Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association, has already set sail from the Greek port of Lavrio and plans to sail directly for Gaza with some 2,000 tons of rice, sugar and corn oil.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio on Sunday that “no ship of any kind will be allowed to arrive at Gaza,” and that aid cargos for Gaza could instead go to al-Arish or Ashdod.
In addition to 15 volunteers — including 13 Libyans, one Nigerian and one Moroccan national — the ship has a crew of 12 from Cuba, Haiti, India and Syria.
The Israeli navy sparked global outrage late in May, after its commandos launched a deadly onslaught on a humanitarian aid convoy bound for the besieged Palestinian territory while it was in international waters.
Backed by the US, Israel has so far managed to escape from an international inquiry into the lethal attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which killed nine activists onboard the civilian convoy and injured some 50 others.