Gaza Aid Activists Forced to Sail to Greece After Dispute

Campaigners aboard 'Road to Hope' aid ship prevented from sailing for Gaza from Libya, apparently after a row with their captain.

Aid workers on a ship originally intended for the Palestinian territory of Gaza are instead being taken to Greece against their will after an apparent dispute with the captain, a charity said on Thursday.

The Road to Hope charity said the Greek ship the Strofades IV left the port of Derna in Libya early on Thursday taking 10 aid workers - seven Britons, two Irish people and an Algerian - to Greece.

An aid ship on route to Gaza, June 5, 2010

The charity said three Libyans, two port policemen and the port manager, were also aboard the ship.

"We think the ship is several miles out to sea in the Mediterranean now. They've been making slow but steady headway. I have no idea what that Greek ship owner is up to," a charity spokesperson said in a statement.

The charity says it is an international collective of activists contributing to efforts to end Israel's blockade of Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas. Israeli
forces killed nine Turks in clashes aboard a converted cruise liner that tried to lead and aid flotilla to Gaza in May.

"The Greek captain ... was reported to be saying he wanted to proceed to Greek islands and drop off the convoyers (aid workers) and Libyans, so that the Greek people could deal with them as illegal immigrants," the Road to Hope statement said.

Britain's foreign ministry said it was aware of the incident. "We understand that the ship now is heading towards Greek territorial waters," the ministry said in a statement.

"Our Embassy in Athens has spoken to the shipping company and is also in close contact with the Greek authorities. Our priority remains that there be a safe resolution to this incident," the statement continued.