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Friday, June 25, 2010

Flotilla 2: Where is Mariam?

I believe the Free Gaza movement deliberately tries to add confusion to their next Gaza mission. Either to try to mislead the Israeli authorities, or to hide the fact that they cannot find or afford a bigger ship and/or volunteers to go on these ships.
While searching the web for traces of a ship called Maryam, I encountered this article which sheds some light on the possible plans of the next Flotilla:
The voyage has been encumbered by bureaucratic and political obstacles from the start. UN resolution 1701 bars any attempts to enter Israeli territory directly from Lebanon, so Lebanon’s minister of transportation has only given permission to a French-registered ship, the Julia, to embark for Cyprus. But authorities in Nicosia have barred the ship from entering Cypriot waters, so the vessel – to be renamed the Naji al Ali after a famed Palestinian cartoonist – is expected to leave for Cyprus but change course for the Gaza Strip.

The organisers of the endeavour said they had been authorised to depart Lebanon immediately, but they were unwilling to announce the exact time of the departure, apparently in the hope of confusing the Israeli military about their intentions.
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The exact time of the ship’s departure was not the only secret yesterday. Organisers of a group of women activists led by the wife of a former Lebanese general once held in an Israeli jail, Ali al Hajj, said they would be leaving Lebanon in a ship named the Mariam. This group claims it will have more than 50 women aboard, but it was not immediately clear that the ship even exists.
Lebanon’s transportation minister, Ghazi Aridi, emphatically denied the existence of a second ship and insisted that no permission had been requested or given for a second ship to join the Julia on the voyage. “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,” a local newspaper quoted Mr Aridi as saying. “I do not know anything about a second aid ship”, he added. Earlier, he was quoted as saying that the Julia and the Mariam were the same vessel.

Whether two ships or one, the Israel military has already declared that the Islamic militant group Hizbollah is behind the effort, and that the boats were likely to be filled with weapons intended to help Hamas, their allies in Gaza. Israeli officials have said that Lebanon is an especially unwelcome collaborator in the effort to break the siege because it remains hostile towards the Jewish state.

Hizbollah has denied any association with the effort, although Mr Hajj joined the group after his release from an Israeli prison in 2008.

The Lebanese government has responded to Israel’s warnings about aid ships leaving Lebanese shores with a warning of its own. The Associated Press quoted an unnamed Lebanese official as saying that the Lebanese government had sent Israel a letter saying it would hold Israel responsible for any violence befalling ships departing its shores, although it did not specify how it plans to do so.
Let there please be just a natural hot summer.