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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Israel warns UN it will stop Lebanese flotilla; Lebanon bars ships from sailing

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Gabriella Shalev sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday, in which she urged the government of Lebanon and the 'international community' not to allow the departure of two ships from Lebanon to Gaza on Sunday, and warning that Israel would not allow the ships to break the 'blockade.'
"Israel reserves its right under international law to use all necessary means to prevent these ships from violating the existing naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip," Shalev wrote.

"It appears that a small number of ships plan to depart from Lebanon and sail to the Gaza Strip which is under the control of the Hamas terrorist regime," she wrote, adding that "while those who organize this action claim that they wish to break the blockade on Gaza and to bring humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, the true nature of the actions remains dubious."

"The organizers of these boats have made repeated assertions to the media that they wish to be Shahids (martyrs)," Shalev added. "There exists a possible link between the organizers of the ships in question and the terrorist group Hezbollah."
JPost reports that because Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel, Israel will treat the ships as hostile, and will stop them by 'all necessary means.'
Shalev said the true intentions of the organizers of the flotilla from Lebanon remain “dubious,” noting that they have been quoted in the media saying they wish to be shahids or martyrs. She also cited “a possible link” between the organizers and “the terrorist group Hizbullah” based in Lebanon and said “Israel cannot exclude the possibility that terrorists or arms will be smuggled on board the ships in question.

“In view of these circumstances, Israel calls upon the government of Lebanon to demonstrate responsibility and to prevent these boats from departing to the Gaza Strip,” she said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that ambassadors had been asked to send a very clear message to the Foreign Ministries in their host countries that since the Lebanese flotilla was coming from an enemy country, they would be treated as if they were hostile.

On Wednesday Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal convened a meeting with international ambassadors stationed here and gave them that same message.
Meanwhile, Lebanese sources told al-Hayat on Sunday that Lebanon will not allow the ships to sail for Israel.
A reported Gaza-bound aid flotilla may not be allowed to depart from Lebanon, Lebanese sources told the Arab daily Al-Hayat on Sunday, saying it was illegal for a vessel leaving a Lebanese port to dock in a port under Israeli occupation.


However, according to the Al-Hayat report, it is possible that the flotilla would not be allowed to leave Lebanese shores, as Lebanon forbids a vessel departing one of its ports to reach a port under Israeli occupation. This fact has led Lebanon officials to estimate that organizers would submit a travel plan to a different destination, perhaps Cyprus, only to change course during the course of their voyage.

Sources have also told Al-Hayat that organizers failed to appeal the government for the necessary permits, which include authorizing their departure as well as their travel.

Lebanese officials told the Arab daily that the bureaucratic procedures needed to approve such an endeavor included authorizing the ship's permit by the Lebanese ministry of transportation, including the approving the intended travelers, as well as the type of cargo the flotilla is to hold.

A senior Lebanese official added that, regardless of the procedures required, Lebanese law did not permit the transport of weapons on board ships.

Lebanon's Minister of Labor Ghazi Al Aridi told Lebanon's Al-Nahar that no official "request regarding the flotilla had been submitted," saying that Lebanon would not "allow anyone to preach us over our support of the Palestinians, but there are rules and they must be followed."

Al Aridi added that a permit could be given to any port but Gaza, since it was under Israeli occupation.
It will be interesting to see whether this becomes another faceoff between Hezbullah and the Lebanese government.

The picture is a previous boat setting sail from Beirut to Gaza (which was also stopped). What could go wrong?


More here.


At 1:55 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Hezbollah has already won that face-off. Lebanon has no real navy to speak of and can't stop Hezbollah even if it wanted to.

The only question left is if Israel's Navy is willing to sink terrorist boats on the high seas with illicit cargo aboard to enforce the naval blockade. Israel had better be prepared for another round of world condemnation for things don't look to be getting better any time soon. Israel right now has two choices: defend its sovereignty or watch Iran establish a foothold in its backyard.

What could go wrong indeed


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