Printed in Daily Times 11th January 2009

* Ship to carry 325 containers of ‘ammunition’ from Greek port of Astakos to Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January
* UAE raises $86 million for Gaza in one day

LONDON: The US military has sought to hire a merchant ship to deliver ammunition to Israel this month, tender documents show, but the Pentagon said the shipment was not linked to the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

A Pentagon spokesman said the ammunition was for a US stockpile in Israel. The US military pre-positions stockpiles in some countries in case it needs supplies at short notice.

In the tender documents, the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as “ammunition” on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.

Air Force Lt Col Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said he would not comment on shipping routes for security reasons but confirmed a shipment of ammunition to Israel was planned.

“The delivery of ammunition is to a pre-positioned US munitions stockpile in Israel in accordance with a congressionally authorised 1990 agreement between the US and Israel,” Ryder said.

“This previously scheduled shipment is routine and not in support of the current situation in Gaza.”

The shipment originated in the United States, Ryder said. He provided no further details on the intended cargo.

A “hazardous material” designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators but gives no other details.

The request for the ship was made on December 31, with the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than January 25 and the second at the end of the month.

The tender for the vessel follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December. A German shipping firm, which won that tender confirmed the order when contacted by Reuters but declined to comment further.

Separately, Israeli ambassador to Austria, Dan Ashbel, said in an interview with the Austrian weekly “profil” that UN aid organisations in Gaza had been infiltrated by Hamas.

“Do you know who the UNRWA’s (UN Relief and Works Agency) workers are today in Gaza: they are Hamas people who distribute aid to those loyal to Hamas,” Ashbel said in the interview to be published on Monday.

“Even this aid organisation has been taken over by Hamas and is being used as a weapon against its own people,” he added.

Ashbel also justified the Israeli strike on a UNRWA school on Tuesday in the northern town of Jabaliya that killed 43 people.

“The damage that was caused only occurred because there was a Hamas weapons depot under the school,” he said.

The UNRWA suspended operations in Gaza on Thursday after a UN convoy was hit by two Israeli tank shells, killing one UN contract driver and wounding a second. But Friday, the UN announced it would resume aid distribution for embattled Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after receiving security assurances from Israel.

Donations: A collection in the United Arab Emirates for funds to help Gazan civilians in the face of the two-week-old Israeli offensive raised nearly 86 million dollars in its first day, organisers said on Saturday.

The fund-raising campaign, which began on Friday with a telethon, is due to continue until the first week of February, said Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who is also head of the Emirati Red Crescent.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum have also each offered to pay for the construction of 600 houses in Gaza to accommodate families left homeless by the Israeli onslaught, officials said. agencies


~ by no2wars on 13/01/2009.

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