ISRAEL: Navy contacts Libyan-sponsored ship, talks to captain
The Israeli navy on Tuesday evening contacted the Libyan-chartered ship Amalthea, instructing it not to attempt to sail to the Gaza Strip. Channel 2 television news reported that the captain said the ship's final destination was the port of El Arish in Egypt -- as appears in the formal log too -- but that the navy was tracking the ship and prepared to intercept it if it tried any tricks and broke course toward Gaza. Listen to the radio communication as broadcast on Israeli news here:
The army denied news reports that it had given the ship an ultimatum to head for Egypt by midnight or it would take it over by force.
According to a Greek website allowing live tracking of marine traffic, the Amalthea indeed appeared to be heading toward El Arish, although a report on the website of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which is behind the initiative, insisted Tuesday afternoon that the ship was sailing to Gaza.
Israeli news reports quoted an Egyptian official saying the ship has requested and received permission to dock in Egypt. The Hebrew-language new media noted that this would be the first time since Hamas' takeover of Gaza that Egypt allows an aid ship to the strip to enter its territorial waters and dock in Egypt, and they quoted Egyptian sources suggesting this was coordinated at a high level between Cairo and Israel to avoid another crisis as sea. The U.S. has also urged Libya to avoid a confrontation with Israel.
There's still enough backlash from the previous crisis. On Tuesday evening, Israel's parliament voted to revoke a number of parliamentary privileges from Haneen Zoabi, an Arab Israeli lawmaker who took part in the flotilla aboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara. Among other things, she will lose her diplomatic passport. Legislator Anastassia Michaeli presented her with a mock Iranian passport instead, to serve her on her "diplomatic incitement trips." She was escorted out of the plenum for this stunt.
Zoabi said the vote was a dangerous precedent for Arab Israelis and accused fellow lawmakers of punishing her "out of vengeance."
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem
Video: A Russia Today news report. Credit: YouTube