Monday, June 21, 2010

Lebanon flotilla organizers say ready to sail for Gaza 'very soon'

Activists travel from Europe to take part in latest attempt to break Israel's maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.
By Jack Khoury

Lebanese sources involved in organizing a planned flotilla to the Gaza Strip told Haaretz yesterday that their preparations were not yet complete but that activists were on their way to the country to take part in the latest attempt to break Israel's maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The participants, including several nuns, have yet to arrive in Lebanon from various European countries, but will be coming "very soon", the sources said. The organizers added that they have not yet applied to the Lebanese Ministry of Transportation for permission to launch the convoy of ships. But representatives of the "Free Palestine" movement said they hope to get the paperwork filed by today.

"We believe this is a step that should only take a few hours," said one. "We want to believe that the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, and the transportation minister, Ghazi al-Aridi, will give us permission, and not submit to pressure from Israel and other countries."

Lebanese law requires every ship leaving the country's ports to obtain official permission. Aridi told the Lebanese newspaper A-Nahar yesterday that "we will not allow anyone to preach to us about support for the Palestinians, but there are laws, and they must be obeyed":

The London-based Al-Hayat reported yesterday that two ships were in advanced stages of preparation for sailing to Gaza. Lebanese sources told the paper they had received the authorities' approval for both the passenger list and the cargo.

A high-ranking Lebanese security source said the country's laws do not allow weapons to be transported by sea. Lebanese law also forbids sailing to ports under Israeli control - including Gaza, which it categorizes as under Israeli occupation. Flotilla organizers are thus expected to ask permission to sail to another destination, such as Cyprus or Turkey, and then divert their route once at sea.

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