An Iranian ship carrying aid supplies has set sail for Gaza and two others are expected to leave next week, two of Iran’s semi-official news agencies reported on Monday.
Iran’s Mehr news agency said that an Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid left the port of Khorramshahr on Saturday, heading towards Gaza.
“This ship will pass through territorial waters of Oman, Yemen and Egypt before it reaches Gaza. It is said that the ship contains only humanitarian aid and there are no peace activists on board, ” the agency stated.
Iran’s Fars news agency also reported that top Iranian officials will allow two other ships to leave, but its navy will not escort them.
“Maj. Gen. Salami, deputy commander IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guard Corps), discussing the humanitarian aid ships to Gaza, said that protecting these ships is not on the agenda of the IRGC,” Fars said.
Earlier this month, an aide to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Revolutionary Guard naval forces would be willing to escort future aid convoys, a move that could potentially have placed them in direct collision with Israel’s military and stoked regional tensions dangerously.
The name of one of the ships is “Toward Gaza,” Mohammad Ali Noorani, the deputy head of Iran’s Society for the Defense of Palestine said at a news conference.
He said that vessel will leave from the port city of Bandar Abbas.
A delegation of Iranian MPs who hope to visit Gaza have already confirmed they will not travel on the aid ships but will attempt to enter the territory via Egypt. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the foreign relations and national security committee in Iran’s parliament said Egyptian authorities were “positive” about the planned visit, but had yet to issue formal permission.
According to the country’s ISNA news agency, the shipment is being organized by the Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation, which insists it is not connected to the Iranian state. “Until the end of the Gaza blockade, Iran will continue to ship aid,” an official from the organization was quoted as saying by Reuters.
A Turkish flotilla of ships trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza was stopped by Israeli naval vessels on May 31 and nine people on one of the ships were killed when the Israeli military boarded it and gunfire broke out. Israel says its troops were attacked with knives, metal poles and other objects.
Israel would view a similar action by Iran as particularly provocative, as it accuses the nation of supplying weapons to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, something denied by Tehran.
Last week Israel said it would not let Iranian ships sail to Gaza .
“If we didn’t let an Irish ship reach Gaza, we are certainly not going to let Iranian ships pass,” one diplomatic official said.
The official added that it was not yet clear how serious the Iranian threat was, and that there was often “a lot of bluster” coming out of Teheran.
“The Iranian regime has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and has a proven track record of supplying dangerous weapons to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the official said. “Obviously, any shipment from Iran to Gaza would be a major concern.”
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