On Sunday an Iranian ship left the port of Khorramshahr and is currently headed for Gaza, according to Reuters. Another ship, loaded with food, construction material and toys, will depart Iran on Friday.
|Iranian MPs plan to enter Gaza at the Rafah crossing.|
“Until the end of the Gaza blockade, Iran will continue to ship aid,” said an official at Iran’s Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation.
The second ship will depart from from Istanbul, Turkey. Additional aid ship convoys are promised for next week, according to theJerusalem Post.
Iran had promised to send a military escort to protect its ships.
On June 6, Hojjatoleslam Ali Shirazi, an aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pledged Tehran would send Revolutionary Guard units to escort Gaza aid convoys. The leader of the Revolutionary Guard, Hossein Salami, said there were no plans to do so. “Such a thing is not on our agenda,” he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency on Monday.
Mohammad Ali Nouraee, an official in charge of the aid for Gaza, said the two convoys will not be accompanied by Revolutionary Guard units as “we are not to fight. We will go for help and we may even become martyred in this way.”
It is not clear what Israel’s response will be to the Iranian convoy. Israel accuses Iran of supporting Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic organization that won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament in the January, 2006, Palestinian parliamentary elections.
In addition to the aid ships, three Iranian parliamentarians are planning to visit Gaza through Egypt. Lawmaker Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash told the Jerusalem Post that he and two other members of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, would travel to Gaza by way of Egypt later this week.
Bighash said around 200 of Iran’s 290 member parliament wanted to travel to Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah crossing but it was decided to send only three MPs. Biqash said on Sunday that the Egyptian government has agreed to issue visas to 70 Iranian parliamentarians who have registered to travel to the Gaza Strip.
In January, 2009, Israel reportedly intercepted an Iranian ship headed for Gaza. The Iranian ship was stopped 20 miles off the coast of Gaza, according to the New York Times. It had departed from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Ahmad Navab, an Iranian official in charge of the aid, said aid would be sent through the Rafah crossing.
During an interview with Press TV on Sunday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejadcondemned UN Security Council approved sanctions against his country and said the deadly attack on the Gaza flotilla two weeks ago resulted in “global hatred” of Israel. Ahmadinejad also said the whole world is now “questioning Israel’s 60-year occupation of Palestine.”
On June 8, DEBKAfile claimed the Iranian convoy will consist of a cargo ship loaded with food and other essentials, medicines and building materials, while the second ship will carry volunteer marines. A third ship will be a floating hospital to be anchored permanently in Egyptian Mediterranean territorial waters opposite the divided Gaza-Egyptian town of Rafah. Small boats will ferry patients between Gaza and the hospital ship.
DEBKAfile is a Jerusalem-based English language Israeli open source military intelligence website. Yediot Achronot investigative reporter Ronen Bergman reported that the site relies on information provided by American neocons. Israeli intelligence officials do not consider even 10 percent of the site’s content to be reliable.
“Tehran calculates that the Israeli navy will not attack boats carrying sick people and will be constrained from venturing into Egyptian territorial waters to hit the floating hospital. By this means, Tehran will dismantle Israel’s sea blockade while also gaining a military presence off the shores of Gaza,” DEBKAfile reported.