Muammar Qaddafi's son Seif al Islam may have made too much of a splash by consigning the MV Almathea (Al Amal) to challenge Israel's Gaza blockade: As Israeli warships encircled the ship Wednesday, July 14, a group of US Democratic senators' interest was drawn to his International Charity and Development Foundation which commissioned the expedition and called for its links with the oil giant BP to be investigated.
Wednesday morning, July 14, found Almathea at anchor about 50 sea miles from the Gaza coast after its captain said his main engine had broken down and would take several hours to repair. debkafile's military sources speculate that he may have stalled the engine to ease his quandary between the ship's Greek owners who ordered him to head for the Egyptian Sinai port of El Arish and unload his 2,000-tons of aid cargo and passengers there, and the insistence of the Libyan group that he continue to Gaza, a course that would bring the vessel into collision with Israeli warships surrounding it it pending instructions from Jerusalem.
Wednesday afternoon, the ship headed west and was on course for El Arish or, alternatively, Libya.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defense minister Ehud Barak, other key ministers and army chief spent half the night deciding how to proceed. They preferred to avoid repeating the May clash aboard a Turkish vessel with the Moldovan-flagged ship and the 14 activists affiliated with Saif al-Islam's charity aboard. Every diplomatic stratagem was therefore brought into play to turn the ship away from Gaza and toward the Egyptian port after the Cairo authorities agreed to give the ship docking rights. The United States had also urged Libya to submit the boatload of food and medicine to Israeli inspection and avoid a confrontation.
In Washington, following debkafile's tie-in of the ship with Seif al-Islam's claim to succeed his father and the same British and Russian business interests which helped him secure the release of Pan-Am bomber, US Senator Frank Lautenberg said Wednesday, July 14: "It is shocking to even contemplate that BP is profiting from the release of a terrorist with the blood of 189 Americans on his hands."
Click here for debkafile's first expose of this tie-in and Seif al-Islam's campaign to beat down his younger brother Moatassem-Billal, who is Muammar Qaddafi's chosen successor.
Lautenberg is leading a group of Democratic senators demanding an investigation into the US-British BP's possible inclusion in the group of Seif al-Islam's international business backers, which leveraged the early release of Pan-Am disaster mastermind, the Libyan secret agent Mohammed Al-Megrahi in 2009, in exchange for oil drilling rights in Libya's Gulf of Sidra.
Megrahi was serving a life sentence in Scotland for plotting the bombing disaster over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in December 1988 in which 261 people lost their lives.
Our sources add that a probe the US senators are seeking would likely close in on Seif's International Charity and Development Foundation and its foreign backers, identify them and expose their links both to the Megrahi affair and the current ships' expedition to break the Gaza blockade.
debkafile's military sources add: Seif al Islam has suffered a considerable loss of face as a result of the Almathea's failure to attain its target of breaking Israel's Gaza blockade and being forced to turn tail.
This fiasco must be credited both to Israel's firm stand and Muammar Qaddafi's determination not to let his eldest son outshine his chosen successor by what his spokesman called "a high-risk adventure."
Our intelligence sources report that exchanges certainly took place between Jerusalem and Tripoli, most likely through the good services of Egyptian intelligence. They were conducted for Libya by its intelligence chief, the heir apparent Moatassem-Billah Qaddafi.
According to our sources, reports that international businessmen actively mediated an end to the crisis are unfounded.