Monday, June 14, 2010

Iran Tempers Blockade Threat

Cooler heads may be prevailing in Tehran as semi-official news reports say Iran's Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation announced one ship loaded with humanitarian aid for Gaza departed Sunday and another is scheduled to leave Friday.

It is in stark contrast to the bellicose threats two weeks ago the Revolutionary Guard's navy was awaiting word from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to escort cargo ships and break Israel's blockade delivering goods directly to Gaza ports.

Both reports were filed by the Reuters news agency.

It is unknown whether the ships carrying food, construction materials and toys for Palestinian refugees in Gaza would challenge the blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt or try to port in Egypt.

"Until the end of (Israel's) Gaza blockade, Iran will continue to ship aid," said an official at Iran's Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation.

Israel insists all cargo headed for Gaza be unloaded at Israeli ports and inspected for arms before being trucked to Gaza.

Israel commandos boarded a flotilla of Turkish aid ships heading to Gaza on May 31 in which troops killed nine pro-Palestinian activists after they were confronted by some passengers with metal rods and knives.

More Iranian bravado: An official of the Iranian Red Crescent Society's youth organization said some 100,000 Iranians had volunteered as potential crew for aid ships.

And the Revolutionary Guards threat: "Such a thing is not on our agenda," Hossein Salami was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government bowing to international demands has vowed to investigate the May 31 flotilla shootings but has refused to consider dropping its blockade.

In 1967, the Israeli's offered no official public apology or released findings of an investigation when its air and naval ships sank the U.S. surveillance ship Liberty without warning, killing 34 and wounding 174 American crew.

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