JERUSALEM, Israel - An agreement between Israeli and Irish officials may stave off a confrontation at sea with the Irish-owned aid ship en route to the Gaza Strip.
The MV Rachel Corrie, named after the American protester killed in an accident in Gaza in March 2003, was one of two vessels prevented by mechanical failures from sailing with the Turkish flotilla last weekend.
According to some media reports, Irish officials may have agreed to unload the ship's cargo at the Ashdod port for land transport to the Gaza Strip.
It was the same offer refused by the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flotilla's flagship, which allowed al-Qaeda terrorists on board to carry out a pre-planned assault on Israeli naval forces, according to the IDF. Nine insurgents died in the ensuing confrontation.
Earlier, Reserve Brig.-Gen. Yosef Kuperwasser, vice director of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told CBN News that Israel would have to stop the ships because it is part of the battle to de-legitimize Israel.
Click here to read Daniel Gordis' op-ed and here for Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's op-ed, both in The New York Times.
Among the 15 activists planning to sail on the Irish ship is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, injured in a protest in 2008 against the security barrier in the Arab town of Bil'in.
Maguire, 66, who in the past has called on the U.N. to ban Israel from membership, has sailed on several Free Gaza Movement voyages.
Also on board the Irish ship is former U.N. secretary-general Denis Halliday, According to Halliday, the 15 activists are not planning to use violence and may agree to sail to Ashdod instead of Gaza.
Irish Foreign Ministry officials said breaking the blockade is important to Ireland, along with delivering the humanitarian aid, which includes cement, medical equipment, toys and printing paper.
Earlier this week, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen made an official request to Israel to permit passage to Gaza.
"The government has formally requested the Israeli government to allow the Irish-owned ship…to complete its journey unimpeded and discharge its humanitarian cargo in Gaza," Cowen told parliamentarians in Dublin.
On Wednesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke again on why Israel could not allow Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip, an open sea port to receive more Iranian weapons shipments.
Click here to read Netanyahu's remarks.
Meanwhile, Hamas refused to allow 21 truckloads of aid from the Turkish flotilla to enter Gaza on Wednesday until all detainees had been released. By Wednesday night, most of them had been deported from Israel.
Haaretz contributed to this report.