Confusion over Gaza aid flotilla
Hundreds of human rights activists aboard a flotilla of ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza say they hope to arrive later yesterday.
But Israel's navy remains adamant that this will not be allowed to happen.
There is also confusion about whether the ships are actually moving.
The Palestinian territory has been under an Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade for almost three years, with only limited humanitarian aid allowed in.
The blockade was imposed after the Islamist movement Hamas - which over the past decade has fired thousands of rockets into Israel - took power in Gaza.
Ships carrying 10,000 tons of supplies and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to blockaded Gaza were being held up near Cyprus on Saturday, as organizers tried to get nearly two dozen high-profile supporters on board.
The flotilla was to set sail toward Gaza on Saturday afternoon, in any event, and approach the territory on Sunday; about 24 hours behind schedule, said Greta Berlin, one of the activists.
A showdown with the Israeli navy appeared inevitable. Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, reiterated Saturday that the ships would be intercepted, denouncing the sea convoy as a provocation and violation of maritime laws.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory by force three years ago.
In Gaza, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the flotilla signals the end of the blockade.
"If the ships reach Gaza, it's a victory for Gaza," Haniyeh told some 400 supporters Saturday, after touring Gaza City's small fishing harbour where several smaller vessels breaking the blockade have docked in the past.
"If they are intercepted and terrorized by the Zionists, it will be a victory for Gaza, too, and they will move again in new ships to break the siege of Gaza."
In Cyprus, organizers were trying to find a way to have two dozen would-be passengers, including 19 European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, join the ships anchored in international waters off the island.
The Cypriot government did not allow smaller boats to ferry the group to the flotilla, Berlin said.
Authorities in Cyprus said the decision was made to protect the island's "vital interests" including economic ties with Israel.
Organizers then appealed to the Turkish government to get the group out via a Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus port. Turkish Cypriot officials have said they want to help the group as much as they can.
But a diplomatic tangle wasn't the only factor delaying the mission. Mechanical problems forced the flotilla to shrink from eight ships to five, and the boats have lost the ability to communicate by satellite phone twice, Berlin said.