The Egyptian government has turned down a request by the Arab Physicians Union to deliver 400 tons of food and construction materials to the Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Hamas, for its part, has rejected a request by the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit of the Israel Defense Force.
Two Iranian aid ships will sail toward Gaza in the coming days, following the peaceful, failed attempt of the MV Rachel Corrie to reach the Gaza enclave. The two Iranian vessels carry food, medicine and appliances, including a group of Iranian physicians and aid workers, according to Press TV.
Meanwhile, Israel accused five passengers of a ship captured captured May 31 by Israeli forces of being “active terror operatives linked to al-Qaeda, Hamas and other armed groups.”
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that “dozens of thugs” from “an extremist, terrorism-supporting” organization had boarded the flotilla and readied themselves for the arrival of the naval commandos “to initiate a violent clash with [Israeli] soldiers.”
This was, however, refuted by one of the suspects telling Al Jazeera that Israel’s claim was baseless. Ken O’Keefe, a British-American citizen, said he had never carried arms for the group, rejecting Israeli allegations that he was a “radical anti-Israel activist” who was travelling to Gaza to “train a [Hamas] commando unit.”
Farouq Burney, a Qataris passenger of the Mavi Marmara, also cast doubts on Netanyahu’s claims.
“Most of the people who boarded the ship in international waters were renowned figures, like European MPs, a former U.S. ambassador and a few people from the Free Gaza Movement. There is no way these people could be branded as terrorists”, he said.
Israel has rejected the U.N.’s plan of an international inquiry into the standoff, and insists on doing its own investigation on the deaths of the activists.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner announced that the European Union is willing to check flotillas heading to the Gaza Strip if Israel ends its blockade of the territory. “We can check the cargo of ships heading toward Gaza,” he said. “We can do it, we want to do it, we would gladly do it.”