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Ireland asks Israel for safe passage of another ship with aid for Gaza

From Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
  • Irish government asks Israel not to interfere with humanitarian aid for Gaza
  • Israeli government official offers same deal rejected by a flotilla attacked Monday by Israeli commandos
  • Irisih official: "We will be watching the situation very closely"

(CNN) -- The Irish government is asking that Israel not interfere with an Irish-owned ship en route to Gaza to deliver humanitarian cargo.

But an Israeli government official who spoke on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue told CNN "the Israeli government is offering to receive the ship's cargo, as it has offered other vessels, if it docks at [Israel's] Ashdod port. The Israeli government will unload the cargo, screen it, and deliver it to Gaza."

That was the same deal rejected by a flotilla of six ships before Israeli commandos attacked one of them Monday, killing nine of the activists who were aboard.

The Irish Foreign Ministry is requesting that Israel allow the MV Rachel Corrie, which was not part of Monday's flotilla, passage to deliver its cargo.

The Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the vessel, owned by the Irish Free Gaza Movement, left Dundalk, Ireland, in mid-May carrying a number of Irish citizens. It may approach Gaza in the next day or two, the ministry said.

Ireland's minister of foreign affairs, Micheal Martin, told the lower house of the Irish Parliament, the Dail, that he had asked the Israeli ambassador to convey to his government his request that, "following the tragedy which has occurred, the Rachel Corrie be allowed to continue unimpeded, and to deliver its cargo to Gaza."

"We will be watching this situation very closely -- as indeed will the world -- and it is imperative that Israel avoid any action which leads to further bloodshed," the foreign minister said.

The Israeli government has said it must enforce the blockade to ensure that weapons are not smuggled into Gaza.