Tehran: Iran will not be sending a blockade-busting ship to Gaza in defiance of Israeli warnings, an Iranian lawmaker said on Saturday, citing Israeli "restrictions”.
Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash told the semi-official ISNA news agency that instead of sending a ship, an Iranian delegation of lawmakers would travel to Lebanon and sail on one of the aid ships expected to head to Gaza from there.
The Iranian ship called "Infants of Gaza" had been expected to sail on Sunday for Gaza carrying 1,100 tons of relief supplies and 10 pro-Palestinian activists but plans were cancelled "due to restrictions imposed by the occupying Zionist regime”, Bighash said.
Iran made the announcement on Tuesday prompting Israel to warn its archenemy to drop the plan.
Israel considers Iran a threat because of its suspect nuclear program, its long-range missiles and its support for Lebanese and Gaza militants.
Israeli security officials said the prospect of an Iranian boat headed for Gaza had Israel deeply worried, and that naval commandos were training for the possibility of taking on a vessel with a suicide bomber on board.
After an international outcry over the killing of nine Turkish activists in a May 31 raid on another aid ship, Israel eased its land blockade of Gaza but insisted on maintaining a naval blockade it says is necessary to keep weapons shipments out of the hands of Gaza`s Hamas rulers.
Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas overran the Palestinian territory in June 2007.
In Lebanon, organisers of the ship, "Julia”, said they plan to sail in the next few days but said they had nothing to with Iran. A second ship will only be transporting women, while a third ship will include parliamentarians from the Middle East and Europe. It is not clear when that ship will sail.