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An Iranian aid ship is to leave the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas for a 14-day journey to Gaza at the end of this week, a Red Crescent official was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency on Tuesday.

“The ship ‘Gaza Children’ is loading the cargo which will be complete by Saturday, and on Sunday it will leave Bandar Abbas for Gaza,” said Abdolraouf Adibzadeh (R) , who is also the project’s spokesman.

“The cargo ship will only have 10 people – five reporters and five Red Crescent aid workers – on board,” he said. “There has been no talk” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards escorting the ship.

“The ship has 1,100 tonnes of aid including medicine and food items such as flour, mineral water, rice, cooking oil, tuna cans as well as soap, blankets and some clothes, balloons and dolls for children,” Adibzadeh added.

The Iranian Red Crescent had planned to send two aid ships to the Palestinian territory earlier this month, and last week it said the boats were ready and awaiting foreign ministry approval.

But an official with the organisation said on Monday the departure for Gaza, which is under Israeli naval blockade, had been delayed due to lack of coordination and a change of cargo. Adibzadeh did not specify when the second ship would leave.

The Iranian Red Crescent previously said a plane carrying 30 tonnes of medical equipment would also be sent to Egypt for onward delivery to Gaza, but the fate of that plan remains unclear.

Iran’s decision to send aid came after a May 31 Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists dead and sparked international outrage.

The Red Crescent sent an aid ship to Gaza in December 2008 but the Israeli navy prevented it from reaching the impoverished Palestinian territory.

The Islamic republic does not recognise Israel, and tensions have worsened between the two countries under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has repeatedly said the Jewish state is doomed to vanish.

Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear-armed country in the Middle East accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian programme and has not ruled out a military strike to curb Tehran’s atomic drive. Iran denies the charge. Daily Times

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