WASHINGTON –The UN Security Council will hold an emergency session on Wednesday night to discuss Israel's refusal to allow a Libyan vessel carrying humanitarian supplies to dock on Gaza's shore.
The session was convened at Libya's request on the grounds that preventing the ship from reaching the Strip constituted an affront to peace on Israel's part.
The incident occurred on Monday, when a Libyan cargo ship approached Israel's territorial waters on its way to Gaza. Palestinian and Libyan officials claimed it was transporting 3,000 tons of food and humanitarian equipment intended for residents of the besieged Strip.
Libya, the current representative of the group of Arab nations on the Security Council, demanded an emergency session be convened following the incident, which forced the ship to veer in the direction of Egypt. Libya's envoy to the Council slammed Israel's refusal to allow the humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.
Shalev slams session as PR stunt
But Israeli Ambassador Gabriella Shalev launched a harshly-worded rebuke at the session, accusing Libya of abusing its member status for public relations purposes.
Shalev called the emergency session a cheap trick and lowly provocation from Libya, which she said was advancing its political agenda interests against Israel. Libya does not understand its role as a member of the Security Council, its obligations or responsibilities, she said.
Shalev slammed Libya for having blocked a Security Council condemnation of the shooting attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem. She went on to note that if Libya is as concerned with peace as it tries to present itself, why did it not think it right to condemn Hamas when it seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup, at times murdering rivals loyal to Fatah. "Where is Libya when rockets and mortar shells are fired towards Israeli citizens?" She asked, also blasting Libya for not condemning Iran, which she said funds, supports and trains terrorists in the Middle East.
The ambassador continued, saying Libya is toeing the line with the extremists who deny the existence of the State of Israel, naming Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, Iran and Sudan.
Shalev said that if Libya was genuinely intent on transporting humanitarian aid to Gaza, it could have done so through accepted channels or gone through other countries.
Israeli Arab MKs to sail for Gaza
The Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that the Israeli Navy contacted the Libyan ship. According to the Ministry, the Navy requested the vessel detail its cargo and made clear to the crew that Israel's policy at present time meant there was also a naval blockade imposed on Gaza. After this, the crew decided to return to sea.
In the past Israel has allowed aid boats headed to Gaza transport equipment, despite the declared blockade. However it now seems Israel has decided to tighten the pressure on Hamas following the renewed rocket attacks on Israel.
Earlier in the day a group of Arab MKs announced they intend to sail to Gaza on Sunday on a ship carrying humanitarian aid; this in light of their objection to the blockade, and in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which commences on Monday.
Since August two boats with left-wing activists have docked in Gaza. The activists were welcomed by hundreds of cheering Palestinians, though the latter were disappointed with the small amount of aid the groups brought with them.
A spokesman for Hamas said at the time this was proof the blockade on Gaza could be broken. Last month 11 European MPs from Britain, Ireland, Switzerland and Italy traveled to Gaza by sea to examine the humanitarian situation there.