NEWS::: Hezbollah denies backing of another Gaza-bound aid mission

The Shiite armed group Hezbollah said its activists will not take part in the forthcoming Gaza-bound humanitarian aid mission to avoid possible confrontation with Israel.

The group issued a statement saying its members would abstain from organizing the mission, transporting cargo and participating in the attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza by the all-female ship Mariam, named after the Virgin Mary.

“We don’t want Israel to use our participation as a pretext to attack the vessel,” the group said in a statement.

The announcement comes as Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, has issued a warning for Lebanon that it would be held responsible for any “violent and dangerous confrontation” at sea.

The ship’s crew will list 50 activists from Lebanon and other countries, including Europeans. Organizers dismiss any links to Hezbollah. The date when the ship would set sail is unknown.

Israel found itself under increasing international pressure to end the long-running naval blockade after Israeli commandos stormed the Gaza aid flotilla last month.

Israeli commandos stormed on May 31 the six-ship Freedom Flotilla in international waters off the coast of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip as it carried some 10,000 tons of aid and up to 700 human rights activists to the Palestinian enclave. Nine activists were killed and dozens were injured. Hundreds were deported.

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