Egypt refuses to stop Iranian aid ships


Kuwaiti paper al-Dar reported on Friday that Egypt rejected Israel’s request not to assist the Iranian ships slated to sail to the Gaza Strip in the coming days, .

The Kuwaiti paper, which cites Egyptian sources, said the officers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak appealed to Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and asked he prevent the passage of Iranian ships through the Suez Canal.

According to the paper’s sources, the Egyptians rejected the Israeli request, and stressed in their response that, due to the international agreements on movement through the Suez Canal, Egypt cannot prevent any ship from sailing through it, unless it is a ship belonging to a state that is at war with Egypt, which is not the case with Iran.

The sources added that Cairo does not wish to be perceived as standing in the way of international organizations and Arab and Islamic states’ desire to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and break the Israeli siege on the Strip.

The Kuwaiti newspaper also cited sources from Iran’s Interest Section in Egypt as saying that Cairo has issued entry visas for hundreds of Iranian citizens who have requested to accompany the ships in a land convoy.

The visas reportedly permit entry to Gaza via Rafah crossing for Iranian Red Crescent teams and humanitarian aid volunteers.

News about the Iranian aid ships to Gaza have been shrouded in mystery. Based on Iran’s initial reports about the sailings the ships should have arrived in Gaza by now.

Lebanese aid ship

In a related development the aid ship which is being sent to Gaza by a group of Lebanese women was christened Thursday as “Mariam” in honor of the Virgin Mary, AFP reported Friday.

“Mariam has begun to achieve its goals and aims, as Israeli officials expressed fear and sent out warnings and threats before deciding to ease the blockade on Gaza,” a spokeswoman from the group, Rima Farah, told the French wire service, adding that faith would be the only weapon on board the ship.

The group of women, made up of Christians and Muslims, gathered Friday in the southern Lebanese town of Maghdushe and prayed together for the safety of the ship set to sail later in June along with European activists and journalists.

The women told AFP they are not affiliated with any political party, and only hope to bring aid and medicine to Gaza. “The ship is now ready,” organizer Samar Al-Hajj told AFP. “We are not afraid.”

Yesterday Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Lebanon over the aid ship saying “it would be responsible for any “violent and dangerous confrontation” .

“I say clearly to the government of Lebanon: You are responsible for the boats leaving your ports, which have the clear and stated intention of trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza,” he said in a statement.