Israel to UN – we reserve the right to stop Lebanon Gaza-bound flotilla 18Jun10 June 20, 2010

by Shlomo Shamir and Amos Harel  -  Haaretz -  18 June 2010

Israel’s UN ambassador on Friday urged the government of Lebanon and the international community to prevent a small group of ships from trying to break the blockade of Gaza, warning that Israel reserves the right to use all necessary means to stop the vessels.

Gabriela Shalev sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warning that the attempt by the organizers to sail from Lebanon and deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza could escalate tensions and affect peace and security in the region.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Ban urged Israel to agree to an international investigation of its deadly commando raid on a Turkish ship that attempted to bring aid to Gaza on May 31.

The UN chief said he is encouraged that Israel is reviewing its Gaza policy and recently decided to allow more goods into the Palestinian territory.

But the secretary-general told reporters Friday he wants a greater easing of the Israeli blockade in Gaza.

Ban said Israel’s investigation of the flotilla raid is important but won’t have international credibility, which is why he is continuing to urge the Israeli government to agree to an international panel with Israeli and Turkish participation.

Earlier Friday the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah said that it would not take part in Gaza-bound aid missions so as not to give a pretext for Israel to attack Lebanon.

“We in Hezbollah highly value the humanitarian moves to break the siege on Gaza, but since the beginning we have stayed away from such acts not because we are greedy but because we do not want to give the Israeli enemy an excuse to carry out an aggression against Lebanon,” a statement by the group said.

The statement came after some local media said Hezbollah was urged not to give Israel a pretext to attack by supporting aid ships leaving from Lebanon for Gaza.

Israel defense officials said in response that they still believe the Hezbollah was behind the Lebanese aid Flotilla planned to set sail for Gaza on Sunday.

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Liwaa quoted on Friday an anonymous Lebanese source as saying that Public Works and Transportation Ministry has asked Hezbollah to refrain from participation in the Lebanese aid ship Miriam.

Some 50 Christian and Muslim Lebanese women as well as foreigners are preparing to leave Lebanon on Sunday on board of the Miriam.

The group of women, who announced that they do not belong to any political group, will sail from the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli to Cyprus and then to Gaza, between June 23 and 25.

The ship, which will be loaded with medical supplies for cancer patients, would be the latest bid to break Israel’s four-year blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

On Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned the Lebanese government that it would be held responsible for ships sailing from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported.

Samar al-Hajj, who is organizing the Miriam voyage to Gaza, thanked Israel “for its threats which only strengthened these women’s willpower to make the trip. I tell the Israelis we are not afraid and we are going on with our plans.”

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