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Gaza activists diverted to Greece from Libya

/ Source: The Associated Press

A ship hired to carry aid from Libya to the Middle East instead reached Greece on Friday, with 17 pro-Palestinian aid workers and officials left stranded on board due to a chartering dispute.

Coast guard officials said the Strofades IV arrived at the port of Piraeus, outside Athens, with the 17 in good health — and no aid.

Accounts differ on how the 10 activists and seven officials left the Libyan port of Derna late Wednesday.

According to the London-based Road to Hope group, the vessel broke its moorings and headed for Greece after an argument over the charter arrangement. The group claimed that the activists — seven Britons, two Irish nationals and an Algerian — were "kidnapped" by the ship's crew.

The ship's Greek operator, Ionian Bridge Shipmanagement SA, said the activists, and the Libyan port officials, insisted on loading aid on the vessel and refused to get off. The company said it had refused to carry the aid, fearing that the activists intended to confront the Israeli navy off Gaza — instead of going to the stated port of destination in Egypt.

Israel has maintained a naval blockade on Gaza since 2007, and several attempts to breach it have failed. In May, Israeli troops killed nine activists who tried to stop them boarding an aid convoy

The Greek coast guard said it was investigating the affair.