Washington, June.4 (ANI): A group of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate from Northern Ireland, are aboard an aid ship heading for the Gaza Strip, and they expect to arrive there late Friday or early Saturday despite Israel's insistence that it will not allow any vessel to breach its blockade.
According to the New York Times, the MV Rachel Corrie, a 1,200-ton converted merchant ship purchased by pro-Palestinian activists, set off Monday from Malta.
The vessel is named after an American woman killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003.
The ship left for Gaza on the day Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish-backed aid vessel purportedly carrying humanitarian aid to the Hamas-governed territory, igniting a confrontation that left nine people dead and launched an international firestorm of protest.
"We're on our way to Gaza," crew member Derek Graham said by phone.
Graham said the ship is carrying 15 activists-including Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire-and was roughly 280 miles from Gaza on Thursday.
Former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Denis Halliday is also on board the ship, the Irish Times reported.
Israel has offered to escort the vessel and deliver the civilian aid items aboard, and it says Egypt is prepared to do the same. But Graham said he was concerned that not all of the cargo -- including medical equipment, school supplies and cement -- would be delivered.
Israel maintains that cement can be used in rocket launchers, and not just for building construction.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman said Israel would not allow its Gaza blockade to be breached, meaning the ship would have to be boarded and inspected before it was allowed to pass. (ANI)