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Israel warning as Libya aid boat eyes Gaza landing

world Updated: Jul 11, 2010 14:10 IST

Israel on Sunday vowed to prevent a Libyan aid ship from running the Gaza blockade after it appeared to be heading for the besieged enclave despite a flurry of diplomatic efforts to divert it to Egypt.

"Israel will not let the boat reach Gaza," minister without portfolio Yossi Peled told Israel's public radio a day after the 92-metre (302-foot) freighter set sail from the Greek port of Lavrio, south of Athens.

Allowing boats to reach the Hamas-run Gaza Strip without being checked would have "very serious consequences" for Israel's security, he said.

There was confusion over the ship's destination on Sunday with organisers saying it was staying the course for Gaza, despite diplomatic reassurances from Greece that it was headed for the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the attempt to reach Gaza, which has been subjected to an Israeli naval blockade for the last four years, was an "unnecessary provocation."

"The goods can be transferred to the Gaza Strip through Ashdod port after being checked," a statement from his office said late Saturday.

"However, we will not allow the entry of arms, weapons or anything which will support fighting into Gaza. We recommend that the organisers either let the ship be escorted by navy vessels to Ashdod port (in southern Israel) or that is sails directly to the port of El-Arish" in Egypt.

Barak's office had earlier said that the defence minister spoke with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and asked "if Egypt would agree to accept the boat at the port of El-Arish."