Israel warns UN over Lebanon to Gaza aid bid

By Steve Weizman (AFP) – 3 hours ago

JERUSALEM — As women activists in Lebanon prepare a blockade-busting voyage to Israel its UN envoy has warned the world body that the Jewish state is entitled to use “all necessary force” to stop them.

In a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon quoted by Israeli radio stations and Internet news sites on Saturday, Ambassador Gabriella Shalev said Israel suspected that organisers might be linked to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

“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,” the website of newspaper Haaretz quoted her as writing.

“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 added.

“While those who organise 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 Israeli foreign ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

A group of dozens of Lebanese women activists is planning to set sail for Gaza on a ship loaded with medical supplies in a new bid to break Israel’s four-year blockade of the Palestinian territory.

The women have not yet announced a departure date but on Thursday they gathered near a shrine to the Virgin Mary in south Lebanon to pray she bless their vessel, christened “Mariam” in her honour.

“The participants are committed to making progress and our only weapons are faith in the Virgin Mary and in humanity,” spokeswoman Rima Farah told AFP.

Dozens 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 some 2,000 years ago.

The women deny Hezbollah involvement in their planned trip and the militant group itself said on Friday that it was not backing the voyage of the Mariam, because it did not want to give Israel a pretext to attack the activists.

Preparations are also underway by other pro-Palestinian activists to send an aid ship carrying educational supplies and journalists from Lebanon to Gaza.

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