NEWS:: Flotillas from Lebanon Bound for Gaza

ORIGINAL POST – IsraelSeen.com

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Ships from several countries, including Lebanon, have left or are planning to leave for Hamas-controlled Gaza in defiance of an Israeli maritime blockade on that territory.[1] In the coming days, at least one Lebanese-organized ship is set to leave Tripoli for Gaza.[2]

Already, key figures have said the main aim of the ships is to stage a public relations stunt and force Jews out of Israel.[3][4]

“A day will come when the ships will carry the remainder of the European garbage which came to my homeland [i.e., Israel] and return them to their homelands. Gilad Shalit will go back to Paris and those murderers [the leaders of Israel] will go back to Poland,” said Free Palestine head Yasser Qashlaq, one of the organizers of the Naji Al Ali ship, which plans to travel to Cyrpus before heading to Gaza. [5]

According to Egypt’s weekly Al-Ahram newspaper, Qashlaq is the “main donor” of the Lebanese Freedom Flotilla 2.[6]

Lebanese Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi said in a recent interview that one of the flotillas was designed as a public relations stunt.[7]

The U.S. State Department issued a statement Wednesday (June 23) that “direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances.”[8]

The Lebanese government granted the Naji Al Ali ship permission to sail to Cyprus, but Cypriot authorities are barring the ship from entering its waters, and Israel warned organizers that any attempt by Lebanese ships to sail into Israeli space would be a direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.[9]

Israel told the United Nations that the Lebanese flotilla is “provocative” and would undermine regional security.[10]

Organizers of a second Lebanese ship, the Mariam, an all-women passenger vessel, claim they will set sail soon from Lebanon,[11] but some reports say the Mariam may be another name for the Naji Al Ali. [12]

Said Aridi, “There is a campaign called ‘Mariam’, and the organisers of the campaign to lift the Gaza blockade did not say there was a vessel carrying that name…I do not know anything about a second aid ship.”[13]

However, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Liwaa reported today (June 24) that the Lebanese government is seeking to halt the flotillas from reaching Gaza.[14] The paper also noted that flotillas due to set sail from Iran also may be canceled.[15]

On June 22, Iranian state television announced that a ship stocked with 1,100 tons of aid is due to leave Iran for Gaza on Sunday, June 27. However, a news report stated June 24 that the ship may not set sail, and that a different vessel carrying Iranian lawmakers and other Iranians would leave from Turkey instead.[16] Iran, the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism, does not maintain relations with Israel and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted on June 11 as saying Israel was “doomed.”[17]

Egyptian witnesses reported seeing at least 12 U.S. war ships and one Israeli vessel passing through the Suez Canal on June 19 heading towards the Red Sea.[18]

Iran arms, funds and trains Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States, Israel, Canada and Australia.[19] Since Israel voluntarily withdrew from all of Gaza in August 2005 in hopes of paving the way for a peaceful, independent Palestinian state, Hamas has fired more than 6,500 rockets and mortars into Israel.[20]

Although two individuals coordinating the Lebanese convoy have denied they are receiving support from Hezbollah, another proxy of Iran, one of them has written in praise of the terrorist group’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and the other has met and thanked Nasrallah publicly.[21] Nasrallah, at a June 4 rally, called for more ships to sail to Gaza. Nasrallah said, “Only diplomacy which is built on strength and arms is effective.”[22] Since the end of Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, the terrorist group has rearmed far beyond its pre-2006 capacity.[23]

Israel considers Gaza-bound convoys a security risk because of Hamas’s ongoing efforts to smuggle Iranian rockets and other weaponry into Gaza since the Iran-backed group overthrew the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup there in 2007.[24] Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin has said that a port in Gaza would “pose a huge security threat to Israel.”[25]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on June 23 the flotillas are intentionally deployed to facilitate a flow of weapons to Gaza.[26]

On June 22, Israel significantly eased the land blockade on the Gaza Strip, changing previous policy to allow all food items to be transferred into Gaza. Previously, about 15 tons of basic food supplies and humanitarian goods were delivered to Palestinians weekly, but certain materials had been prohibited. Other items will also be allowed, but weapons and related materials used to build them will still be prohibited.[27]

“Anyone who wants to bring products can do so — food, toys, medicines, anything,” said Netanyahu on Wednesday (June 23).[28]

Reports about the new flotillas come in the aftermath of a May 31 Israeli campaign to prevent an illegal flotilla from reaching Gaza, in which nine activists – all Turks or of Turkish descent – were killed after passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship in the convoy, attacked Israeli military personnel.[29]

Israel had ordered the vessels to dock in the southern Israeli port of Ashdod to unload the cargo for security inspections and subsequent delivery to Gaza.[30] Despite the refusal of all six ships to detour to Ashdod, the Mavi Marmara was the only vessel where a violent confrontation took place.[31]

Footnotes:

[1] Sofer, Roni, “Israel to EU: Stop your citizens from joining flotillas,” YnetNews, June 15, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3905357,00.html

[2] Prothero, Mitchell, “Lebanon’s aid flotilla ready to set sail for Gaza despite threats and hurdles,” The National, June 24, 2010, http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100624/FOREIGN/706239822/1002

[3] “The aid flotilla planned to set sail from Lebanon is supported by Syria and Hezbollah. Its organizer, Yasser Qashlaq, called for “getting rid of the remainder of the garbage of Europe” [the Jews in Israel] and sending them back to their “homelands,”” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, June 22, 2010, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e097a.htm

[4] Khoury, Jack, and The Associated Press, “Lebanon allows Gaza-bound ship to sail to Cyprus,” Haaretz, June 21, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/lebanon-allows-gaza-bound-ship-to-sail-to-cyprus-1.297333

[5] “The aid flotilla planned to set sail from Lebanon is supported by Syria and Hezbollah. Its organizer, Yasser Qashlaq, called for “getting rid of the remainder of the garbage of Europe” [the Jews in Israel] and sending them back to their “homelands,”” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, June 22, 2010, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e097a.htm

[6] “Yasser Qashlaq, a Lebanese Flotilla Organizer, on Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV: I Hope Our Ships Will ‘Carry These Dregs of European Garbage Back to Their Own Countries’ From Israel,” The Middle East Media and Research Institute, Special Dispatch No.3052, June 23, 2010, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4396.htm

[7] Khoury, Jack, and The Associated Press, “Lebanon allows Gaza-bound ship to sail to Cyprus,” Haaretz, June 21, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/lebanon-allows-gaza-bound-ship-to-sail-to-cyprus-1.297333

[8] “U.S. calls flotillas to Gaza ‘irresponsible,’” JTA, June 24, 2010, http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/06/24/2739758/us-flotillas-to-gaza-irresponsible

[9] Prothero, Mitchell, “Lebanon’s aid flotilla ready to set sail for Gaza despite threats and hurdles,” The National, June 24, 2010, http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100624/FOREIGN/706239822/1002

[10] Benhorin, Yitzhak, “Israel to UN: Lebanon flotilla provocation,” YnetNews, June 18, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3907273,00.html

[11] Prothero, Mitchell, “Lebanon’s aid flotilla ready to set sail for Gaza despite threats and hurdles,” The National, June 24, 2010, http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100624/FOREIGN/706239822/1002

[12] Prothero, Mitchell, “Lebanon’s aid flotilla ready to set sail for Gaza despite threats and hurdles,” The National, June 24, 2010, http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100624/FOREIGN/706239822/1002

[13] Prothero, Mitchell, “Lebanon’s aid flotilla ready to set sail for Gaza despite threats and hurdles,” The National, June 24, 2010, http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100624/FOREIGN/706239822/1002

[14] “’Lebanon gov’t may cancel flotillas,’” The Jerusalem Post, June 24, 2010, http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=179382

[15] “’Lebanon gov’t may cancel flotillas,’” The Jerusalem Post, June 24, 2010, http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=179382

[16] “Iran to Send Aid Ship to Gaza,” AP, June 22, 2010,http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gXp6fvvgQLELYgmlMBK-EaQ8A1WQD9GG8VPO0; Cohen, Dudi, “Iranian Gaza aid ship won’t sail due to ‘Israeli threats,’” YnetNews, June 24, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3910416,00.html

[17] “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2009, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2008/122436.htm; Doran, D’Arcy, “Iran’s Ahmadinejad says Israel is ‘doomed,’” AFP, June 11, 2010,http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5isyj2tN7JOhrI9MQuZZH4O18sqjg

[18] “US, Israeli warships move to PG: Report,” Press TV, June 20, 2010, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=131181&sectionid=351020205

[19] “Council Decision,” Council of the European Union, Dec. 21, 2005; “Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs),” U.S. Department of State Web site, Oct. 11, 2005, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/fs/37191.htm; Wilson, Scott, “Hamas Sweeps Palestinian Elections, Complicating Peace Efforts in Mideast,” The Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2006, accessed Jan. 18, 2006,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/26/AR2006012600372.html; Public Security and Emergency Preparedness Canada, National Security, Listed entities, accessed Jan. 18, 2007, http://www.psepc.gc.ca/prg/ns/le/cle-en.asp#hhi18; “Listing of Terrorist Organisations,” Australian Government Web site, May 24, 2007, http://tinyurl.com/2cfzzw

[20] IDF Spokesperson’s Unit communiqué, Jan. 3, 2009

[21] Nahmias, Roee, “Lebanese flotilla organizers found to have Hezbollah ties,” YnetNews, June 16, 2010,http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3906357,00.html

[22] Yazbeck, Natacha, “Hezbollah chief calls for ‘Freedom Flotilla II,’” AFP via Asharq Alawsat, June 5, 2010,http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=21193

[23] Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center communiqué, Feb. 22, 2009, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e013.htm; “One year since the acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the second Lebanon war: An interim report,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Aug. 12, 2007, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/un1701_0807.htm

[24] “The Gaza flotilla and the maritime blockade of Gaza – Legal background,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 31, 2010,http://tinyurl.com/33tofyd; Vick, Karl, “Can Israel Learn How to Make Its Case?” TIME, June 10, 2010,http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1995850,00.html

[25] “Diskin: No aid crisis in Gaza,” The Jerusalem Post, June 15, 2010, http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=178503

[26] Lavie, Mark, “Israel: Flotillas aim to get weapons to Gaza,” AP, June 23, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gXp6fvvgQLELYgmlMBK-EaQ8A1WQD9GH6VJG1

[27] JPost.com, “Gov’t to ease Gaza policy,” The Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2010,http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=178968; “Behind the Headlines: The Israeli humanitarian lifeline to Gaza,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 25, 2010,http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/HumanitarianAid/Palestinians/Israeli_humanitarian_lifeline_Gaza_25-May-2010.htm

[28] Lavie, Mark, “Israel: Flotillas aim to get weapons to Gaza,” AP, June 23, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gXp6fvvgQLELYgmlMBK-EaQ8A1WQD9GH6VJG1

[29] Black, Ian; MacAskill, Ewen; Booth, Robert, “Gaza flotilla attack: Turks killed by Israeli soldiers given heroes’ funeral,” The Guardian (UK), June 4, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/03/gaza-flotilla-attack-turkey-funeral

[30] “IDF forces met with pre-planned violence when attempting to board flotilla,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 31, 2010,http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2010/Israel_Navy_warns_flotilla_31-May-2010.htm

[31] Teibel, Amy; Goldenberg, Tia, “Israeli commandos storm aid flotilla; 9 killed,” AP, May 31, 2010,http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ioi_0jtO9RjMwPNRoXNCndRPRq3gD9G1ST400

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