Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi confirmed that the ministry allowed organizers of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla to sail from the northern port city of Tripoli to Cyprus before heading to the Hamas-run territory.
Aridi's remarks on the vessel "Julia" on Sunday night came as Israel's Haaretz daily reported that the Jewish state had initiated diplomatic efforts designed to prevent the departure of at least one ship, carrying 50 to 70 Lebanese women and food aid. Israel has been in touch with the U.N., U.S., France, Spain and Germany. It has also been speaking with the Vatican because "Mariam" is expected to include several dozen Catholic nuns, Haaretz said.
However, according to Aridi the ship was not named "Mariam," stressing that the voyage was christened "Mariam" in honor of Virgin Mary.
While confirming that "Julia's" first destination will be Cyprus and not Gaza, the minister stressed that he won't sign on any illegal sail.Aridi also stressed that "Julia's" voyage to Cyprus was not in violation of Security Council resolution 1701 and that the vessel would undergo a technical checkup before it sails from Tripoli.
The Lebanese government is responsible of its decision, Aridi added.
However, Israeli military sources warned that it would be very easy to take control of Iranian and Lebanese ships because they are from countries which are in enmity with the Jewish state. They told Haaretz that they would deal firmly with them.
Two Iranian Red Crescent boats also plan to depart for the blockaded enclave.
Cartoon by Naji al-Ali
Ynet adds that also a second ship, the Naji al Ali, named after the famous Palestinian cartoonist who was murdered in 1987, will sail to Cyprus. The Naji al-Ali will be carrying 25 European activists, including parliament members, and some 50 journalists.
Update Tuesday: A ship that will carry aid from the Iranian Red Crescent Society to the Gaza Strip will leave on June 27 carrying 1,100 tons of supplies and 10 people on board, Abdolrauf Adibzadeh, the head of the organization, said in Tehran today. The vessel, which will head to the coastal strip ruled by the Hamas militant group through the Suez Canal, is not looking for a confrontation with Israel, he added.