Egypt rejects Israeli request to stop Iranian ships
Egypt has rejected an Israeli request to prevent Gaza aid ships from passing through the Suez Canal, al-Jazeera reports citing a high-ranking national security official in Cairo who insisted his name not be mentioned.
According to the Iranian Red Crescent, the three ships are carrying humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007. IRC announced the decision to sent out the ships shortly after Israeli gunboats attacked the so-called Freedom Flotilla aid convoy that was trying to break the Israeli siege of Gaza, killing nine and injuring 33.
According to the al-Jazeera report, Israel appealed to Egyptians asking them to prevent the passage of Iranian ships through the Suez Canal.
The Egyptians rejected the Israeli request, and stressed in their response that, due to the international agreements on movement through the Suez Canal, Egypt cannot prevent any ship from sailing through it, unless it is a ship belonging to a state that is at war with Egypt, which is not the case with Iran.
Egypt, just like many other nations, strongly denounced the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla. Cairo recently issued a ban on all Israeli flights over the city of Thaba on the Sinai Peninsula, which means that Israeli airliners will no longer be able to approach Eilat airport from Egypt.
In Moscow political analyst Irina Zvyagelskaya sees this as a fresh sign of Israel already feeling the pinch of its heavy-handed policy in the region.
The Israeli blockade of Gaza has always been counterproductive and now it starts causing a lot of inconvenience to the Israelis themselves, at least more than any time before, Irina says.
The Israelis do not want arms and dual purpose materials getting through, that I can understand, but this can be handled by regular border checkpoints... What I’m saying is that you really don’t have to do anything that can kill innocent people and make Israel the butt of international criticism for disproportionate use of force…
Besides, the continuing blockade of Gaza is already complicating Tel Aviv’s relations with its friends, including Egypt.