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Monday, May 23, 2011

Malaysian ship tries again to go to Gaza, gets engine trouble

From AFP:
A Malaysian aid ship attempting to land in Gaza after being warned off by Israeli naval forces last week has been forced to abort its mission after engine trouble, activists said.

Matthias Chang, who is heading the mission for the Perdana Global Peace Foundation, told AFP on Monday that the MV Finch was now stuck six nautical miles from Egypt's El-Arish port.

"At about 5:30pm local time (0330 GMT), our vessel developed engine trouble and we lost our steering capability, so we had to stop our attempt to reach Gaza by sea," he said.

"However, the Egyptian foreign minister has given his assurance that we will be allowed to unload our humanitarian cargo and that it will be taken by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency into Gaza," Chang said, adding that Egypt is bound by international law to lead the vessel to safety.

"Although we were not able to reach Gaza by sea, we have achieved our aim of breaking the Israeli embargo by breaching their protection zone last Monday and if the Egyptians deliver on their promise, we will have also achieved our aim of delivering aid to Gaza," Chang said.

Perdana Foundation officials said the MV Finch left Greece on May 11, carrying plastic pipes to help restore the sewage system in Gaza.

However, Israeli naval forces fired warning shots at the vessel when it was in Israeli waters, about 400 metres (yards) from Gaza, and forced the ship into Egyptian waters.

Chang said the 12 activists and crew onboard the ship, had on Monday told Egyptian authorities to either allow the vessel to dock and unload its aid or they would carry on to Gaza by sea.

As the Egyptians did not respond to the ultimatum, Chang said the ship left the waters off El-Arish, heading towards Israeli waters.

Malaysian journalist Alang Bendahara, who was also aboard the vessel, told AFP the aid ship was escorted by an Egyptian navy patrol vessel, which cautioned that Israel's naval forces could attack if they entered Israeli waters.

"The mood onboard the ship was very subdued as we were contemplating what would happen but it was clear that everyone was determined to continue so that we could get this much needed aid to Gaza," he said.
Keep in mind the timeline - the ship was not allowed to dock at El Arish for days before its crew decided to try for Gaza again.

Yet no one is blaming Egypt for not letting them unload their precious cargo. Even though Egypt claims that it has/will open Rafah.

Sounds like Egypt is blockading Gaza, doesn't it?

(h/t Challah Hu Akbar)