20 June 2010

Schip met Libanese vrouwen vaart a.s. donderdag naar Gaza

Een groep christelijke en moslimvrouwen uit Libanon zijn van plan om a.s. donderdag met een schip met medische hulp voor vrouwen en kinderen naar Gaza te varen om de blokkade te breken. Zij zullen o.a. worden vergezeld door de 'Naji al-Ali', een schip vernoemd naar de vermoorde Palestijnse cartoonist, van Reporters Without Borders en Free Palestine beweging (dus ook weer Europeanen). Het Libanese schip is 'Mariam' gedoopt, ter ere van de Maagd Maria. Israƫl heeft te kennen gegeven dat het nu al weet dat er "Hezbollah-terroristen" op het schip zullen zijn, en dat het zal aanvallen zodra het schip de haven verlaat.

Lebanese Christian and Muslim women peace activists pray at the Virgin Mary church in Maghdusheh

AFP - Gaza-bound Lebanese women pray for Mary's blessing

MAGHDUSHE, Lebanon — Women activists planning to sail to Gaza gathered on Thursday near a statue of the Virgin Mary in south Lebanon to pray she bless their flotilla, christened "Mariam" in her honour.

"Mariam has begun to achieve its goals and aims, as Israeli officials expressed fear and sent out warnings and threats before deciding to ease the blockade on Gaza," said spokeswoman Rima Farah.

"The participants are committed to making progress and our only weapons are faith in the Virgin Mary and in humanity," she told AFP.

Tens of Christian and Muslim women gathered in prayer in a cave near Our Lady of Mantara in the town of Maghdushe, where Mary was said to have waited for Jesus while he was preaching nearby 2,000 years ago.

Along with European activists and journalists, they are planning to sail for Gaza with an aid ship loaded with medical supplies in the latest bid to break Israel's four-year blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

The women insist they are not affiliated with Israel's Lebanese enemy Hezbollah or any other political organisation and have not given an exact date for the departure of the ship.

The trip comes as Israel faces an international backlash over its deadly May 31 seizure of a six-ship aid fleet bound for Gaza, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by naval commandos in clashes on one of the boats.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday warned Lebanon it would be responsible for any "violent and dangerous confrontation."

But Israel also approved a plan to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip after weeks of international pressure, while providing few details on what new goods would be allowed in.

"Mariam" organiser Samar al-Hajj for her part thanked Israel "for its threats which only strengthened these women's willpower to make the trip."

"The ship is now ready," she told AFP. "We are not afraid."

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.

PULSE - 18 June 2010 — A senior Israeli military official has warned the Beirut government against allowing an aid ship to depart Lebanon for the besieged Gaza Strip.”I say clearly to the government of Lebanon: You are responsible for the sea vessels leaving your ports with a clear and known intention of trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday.

The warning came days after a group of female Lebanese activists announced a plan to send an aid ship loaded with medical supplies to Gaza.

Israel said that its navy would not allow the boat to reach Gaza.

“The Lebanese government has responsibility for such vessels leaving its ports … as their cargo that could result later in a violent and dangerous clash if the ship refuses to come to Ashdod (port),” Barak said.

The organizers of the aid convoy say 50 Lebanese and foreign activists would be aboard the ship.

“We are all independent women who believe in breaking the siege on Gaza,” said Samar Hajj, who is coordinating the trip.

Israeli forces on May 31 attacked the multinational Freedom Flotilla relief mission, which had set sail to break Tel Aviv’s siege of the Gaza Strip. The assault in international waters left at least 20 human rights campaigners dead and over 40 other injured.

The attack on the Freedom Flotilla has provoked ferocious international condemnation of Israel.

Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah praises the activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla for their “courage” and “humanitarian efforts.”

“We saw the Gaza Flotilla, and I saw courage and the scenes of responsibility. This Gaza aid convoy was heading to break the inhumane siege which has been imposed on Gaza,” Nasrallah said on Thursday.

“We must salute all who participated in the Gaza aid convoy and all who supported them as well and we must take a bow before them,” the Lebanese leader said.

The Freedom Flotilla, which was carrying food and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip, came under fire early Monday morning by Israeli navy forces in international waters more than 150 km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.

Twenty international activists are reported to have been killed and 50 others injured in the incident.

The killings prompted the international community to condemn Israel for the inhumane incident.

Nasrallah also called on the people of Lebanon to stage a gathering in support of the besieged residents of Gaza on Friday.
The Hezbollah leader said they confronted all challenges the Flotilla faced with perseverance and solidarity.

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