Women-only aid ship due to sail to blockaded Gaza

By staff writers
August 19, 2010

A women-only Lebanese aid ship named after the Virgin Mary plans to break the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel sometime next week.

The organisers of the aid ship said on 19 August 2010 that they will sail to Cyprus for the first leg of their journey this weekend.

Organiser Samar al-Hajj told reporters: "The ship Mariam will leave for Cyprus on Sunday at 10pm (local time, 19.00 GMT) from the port of Tripoli."

Ms al-Hajj stressed in advance that those on board will not be carrying weapons or arms of any kind, that their purpose and cargo is strictly humanitarian, and that the venture is entirely nonviolent.

The ship is called The Mariam, after Mary the mother of Jesus. It is a Bolivian-flagged cargo ship originally named the Junia Star.

The aim of the aid ship is to bring badly needed assistance to the people of Gaza, who have been beseiged and blockaded by Israel for four years.

The Miriam will carry 50 Lebanese and international women on board. The passengers are said to include a well-known Cypriot singer.

Back in May 2010 Israel casuded international outrage by attacking a Turkish ship that was part of a flotilla of six ships headed for Gaza.

Nine Turkish activists were shot dead by Israeli commandos. The IDF claimed that they were threatened and released doctored film to back this claim. Subsequent investigations have revealed that the soldiers shot first, and those on board claimed they were acting in self defence when invaded without warning.

Previously good relations between Turkey and Israel have been imperilled by the incident.

Israel investigated what happened and vindicated itself, but has refused calls for an impartial international investigation.

The Cypriot authorities have a ban on ships departing for Gaza, and it is not clear what will happen when The Miriam seeks to call there.

Israel has threatened to invade any ship coming into the waters around Gaza.

The Naji al-Ali, originally named Julia, a Lebanese boat organised by journalists, has also said that it will sail to Gaza via Cyprus.

The boat has not yet received any official clearance from Lebanese authorities.

Also on Ekklesia: Harry Hagopian, 'From Turkey to Gaza: Human rights and fundamental freedoms?' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12413


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