TEHRAN — The Iranian Red Crescent has decided to send two aid ships to Gaza this week in the latest bid to break the blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory by Iran's regional archfoe Israel.
Red Crescent director for international affairs Abdolrauf Adibzadeh told the state IRNA news agency late on Sunday that the decision to send the ships was taken after a meeting with the foreign ministry.
"One ship will carry donations made by the people and the other will carry relief workers. The ships will be sent to Gaza by end of this week," Adibzadeh said.
He said the Red Crescent has called for Iranian volunteers to act as relief workers and accompany the vessels.
"Volunteers who want to go to Gaza and help the oppressed people of occupied Palestine can refer to the Red Crescent website and register," Adibzadeh said.
He said the initial plan was to send the ships through an intermediary country, but "based on a decision by the society, they will be sent directly." He added that the aid would consist of foodstuffs and medicines.
The Iranian Red Crescent had previously sent an aid ship carrying food and medicines to Gaza in December 2008 but it was prevented from reaching the territory by the Israeli navy.
The decision to send the two ships comes hot on the heels of a report that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards had expressed readiness to escort aid flotillas to Gaza.
"If the respected leader of the revolution (supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) gives an order in this regard, the Revolutionary Guards' naval forces will take a practical step using their capability and equipment to escort flotillas to Gaza," Khamenei's aide in the Guards' naval wing, Ali Shirazi, told the Mehr news agency on Sunday.
It was unclear, however, how the Guards would escort the flotillas as their naval wing is largely made up of speed boats and light vessels.
Blaming the United States, Britain and France for the deadly raid, Khamenei called for the prosecution of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
In a message issued on Tuesday, Iran's supreme leader called on the international community to end the Israeli blocakde.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad too lashed out at Israel, demanding that it face "political sanctions" for the raid.
The animosity between Iran and its regional archfoe has only worsened under Ahmadinejad, with top Guards commanders repeatedly boasting that the elite force has missiles capable of reaching any target in Israel.
In turn, Israel, which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, has refused to rule out a resort to military action against Iran to prevent it aquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran denies any such ambition.
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