The captain of a Libyan aid ship bound for Gaza announced that he would reroute his vessel to El-Arish port in Egypt, the IDF said Tuesday evening.
Navy forces had contacted the ship a number of times throughout the day to explain that it would not be allowed to dock in Gaza because of the naval blockade, but army officials stressed that the ship was being diligently monitored in any case.
The Navy said the ship had altered its course overnight and was headed towards Egypt's shores, but that it had not entered the country's territorial waters at the time of the captain's announcement.
IDF officials remained wary, but they said that the fact the captain had requested permission to dock at El-Arish was a good sign.
The ship has received permission to dock in Egypt instead of Gaza, according to an Egyptian official.
"Egypt has given permission to the Libyan ship to dock in el-Arish port instead of the port of Gaza," the official said, adding Egypt would allow the ship's medical cargo and passengers to pass into Gaza through the Rafah border.
On board the Al-Amal are the captain, a citizen of Cuba, and 12 crew members, all of whom are Cuban and Indian. An additional nine passengers, who claim they belong to Gaddafi's charity, are also on board.
Their leader is a Libyan engineer. Others are citizens of Syria, Morocco, and Algeria. The ship is carrying 2,000 tons of supplies.
Earlier Tuesday a representative of the Gaddafi Foundation for Gaza, which chartered the ship, said the IDF threatened to send Navy forces to intercept the freighter.
"The Israelis have contacted us and threatened to send their navy to intercept and escort the vessel to the port of Ashdod, if we do not change direction," Machallah Zwei told AFP by satellite phone.
However the IDF said it attempted to make initial contact with the ship in order to check the quality of the line, without including any kind of messages for the captain, but that the vessel did not respond to the attempt.
"We explained to the Israeli authorities that our original destination was Gaza and that we were not there to make provocation," Zwei said. "We also explained that we were carrying food and medicine and asked them to let us unload our cargo to Gaza."
Ron Ben-Yishai and Reuters contributed to this report
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