Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mariam, Lebanese aid ship with only women aboard, set to sail on Sunday from Tripoli to Gaza

Samar al Hajj is the coordinator of the Lebanese aid ship that with about 50 women and mediacal supplies is to leave the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli on on Sunday. Samar Hajj is the wife of general Ali al-Hajj, former chief of interbal security in Lebanon and one of four generals who had been indicted in relation with a car bomb that killed Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri and 22 others in 2005. Here she makes the victory sign after her husband was released for lack of evidence in April 2009.

Lebanon and Egypt's prime ministers slammed Israel on Thursday over warnings against an all-women Lebanese aid ship that aims to break the Gaza blockade."The Israeli government continues to threaten Lebanon," Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in response to a question at a news conference with the Egytian premier, Ahmed Nazif,who was in Lebanon on a two day state visist.
"There are fleets coming from Europe," he added. "Will the Israeli defence minister attack Europe or other countries sending aid to Gaza?" "Enough lies ... Israel's actions are not humanitarian and rejected by all human rights treaties."
For his part, Nazif warned that an Israeli attack on the women's ships "might have dire consequences as we saw with the Turkish Freedom flotilla." "The region is facing a crossroads between the will for peace, which all Arab states voice and the international community supports, and Israel's reluctance and intransigence," Nazif said.
A group of Lebanese women activists joined by Europeans and journalists are planning to sail for Gaza on a ship -- christened "Mariam" in honour of the Virgin Mary -- in the latest bid to break Israel's four-year blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory. Thde ship is planned to leave the northern Lebanese port Tripoli on Sunday. ''We are all independent women who believe in breaking the siege on Gaza and are committed to the enmity of the Zionist entity," said Samar Hajj, who is coordinating the trip. She stressed the women were not affiliated with Hizbullah, or any other political organization."This has nothing to do with Hizbullah even though it is an honor for us to be supporters of the resistance," said Hajj. She added that so far 50 women -- Muslim, Christian and secular -- had signed up for the trip on board the cargo ship "Mariam." Among them are 30 Lebanese and 20 foreigners, including several European nationals.She said all the logistics for the trip had been handled by the Free Palestine Movement, a non-governmental organization.

The plans for a women-only operation comes as Israel faces an international backlash over its deadly May 31 seizure of a six-ship aid flotilla bound for Gaza, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by naval commandos.

On Thursday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned Lebanon it would be responsible for any "violent and dangerous confrontation."  Israel's UN ambassador on Friday urged the government of Lebanon and the international community to prevent a small group of ships from trying to break the blockade of Gaza, warning that Israel 'reserves the right to use all necessary means to stop the vessels'.Gabriela Shalev, Israels representative at the UN used these words that forebode an new confrontation in  a letter to UN-chief Ban Ki Moon.

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