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Official: Malaysia flotilla to dock at Egypt port

May 17, 2011 8:07 P.M. (Updated: May 18, 2011 2:19 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A Malaysian aid flotilla docked in the El-Arish port after Israeli forces forbade it from reaching Gaza, port director Maj.-Gen. Jamal Abdul Maqsoud said Tuesday.

The Egyptian authorities will allow the flotilla remain in post until preparations are made to transfer the goods to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, Abdul Maqsoud said.

Israeli naval forces fired warning shots at the ship as it approached the Gaza Strip on Monday, forcing the vessel to retreat to Egypt, organizers and the Israeli military said.

It was sent by the Perdana Foundation, helmed by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, an 85-year-old firebrand who was a strident critic of the West and Israel over the treatment of Palestinians during his two decades in power.

The organization was also involved in the first Freedom Flotilla, a May 2010 attempt to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which ended in disaster when naval commandos raided the aid ships, killing nine Turks on board one of the vessels.

Perdana Foundation officials said the MV Finch left Greece on May 11, carrying plastic pipes to help restore the "devastated" sewage system in Gaza.

Israel has maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2006, after militants there captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

It was tightened a year later when the Hamas movement seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Israel agreed to relax some of the restrictions in July 2010, following a wave of international pressure after the botched raid on the Freedom Flotilla.

The incident sparked heavy criticism of Israel and led to a sharp deterioration in ties between Turkey and Israel.
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