The Foreign Ministry advised the defense establishment yesterday to wait until the Libyan aid ship reportedly headed for Gaza approaches or enters the coastal strip's territorial waters before making any attempt to stop it. The ministry made the recommendation to avoid the risk of breaking international law.

The Foreign Ministry made the same recommendation over the previous flotilla from Turkey, but was not heeded.

The recommendation, which was written by the Foreign Ministry's legal department and distributed to the defense establishment and the Prime Minister's Bureau yesterday, said that the ship's documentation indicates it is headed for El-Arish, Egypt, and not Gaza, and so it cannot be determined whether the vessel intends to break the naval blockade.

The ministry advised that unofficial statements by the ship's crew indicating that they do intend to reach Gaza might not be legally sufficient to justify stopping the ship at sea.

"We recommend that any enforcement be carried out only if the blockade is actually breached or at least at maximum proximity to the closure zone, so as to create a clearly justified basis for the action. As will be recalled, we recommended [in the Turkish flotilla] that action be taken as close as possible to the blockade zone. It was explained that this was operationally impossible, however certainly in this case, when there is only one ship, this is possible."

The Foreign Ministry and the navy continue to follow the ship and collect information about the passengers. There are 12 crew members and 9 passengers on board, 6 of whom are Libyan citizens. Although the ship is owned by a charity belonging to the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, the Libyan government has officially denied any official affiliation with it, and says it is a private organization.