The aid workers had been part of the Road to Hope convoy to Gaza, which had chartered the vessel to transport approximately 35 ambulances and medical supplies vehicles from Libya to Egypt, prior to their final land passage over the border into Gaza. This expensive and complicated method of delivery is mandated by the Egyptians who support entry to Gaza only via the seaport or airport at the Eastern Sinai town of Al Arish.
It is still not known for certain why the owner and captain of the vessel initiated the kidnap; during their illegal exit from the port of Derna in Libya – directly against the harbourmaster’s instructions – they caused a tremendous amount of damage to their own ship, and indeed the harbour walls. They also attempted to ram a coastguard vessel. The team of 7 British, 2 Irish, and 1 Algerian volunteers, together with 7 Libyan port officials and policemen, were held in extremely unsafe conditions on the Mediterranean Sea for 4 days before being rescued by Greek commando special forces, after assistance from the container ship OOCL Oakland, which answered their radio mayday call. The owner and captain of the Strofades IV were arrested in Greece.