Report: Lebanon Forbids Launch of Gaza-bound Flotilla

Lebanese sources tell Al-Hayat that flotilla organizers had not filed for the necessary permits, adding that travel to an Israel-controlled port is illegal.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

A reported Gaza-bound aid flotilla may not be allowed to depart from Lebanon, Lebanese sources told the Arab daily Al-Hayat on Sunday, saying it was illegal for a vessel leaving a Lebanese port to dock in a port under Israeli occupation.

Earlier Sunday, Haaretz reported that Israel had initiated diplomatic efforts designed to prevent the departure of at least one vessel, carrying 50 to 70 Lebanese women and food aid. Israel has been in touch with the UN, United States, France, Spain and Germany. It has also been speaking with the Vatican because the ship is expected to include several dozen Catholic nuns.

Lebanese school students protest against the Israeli raid on the aid ships as they carry Turkish flags in Lebanon, Thursday, June 3, 2010. Credit: AP

However, according to the Al-Hayat report, it is possible that the flotilla would not be allowed to leave Lebanese shores, as Lebanon forbids a vessel departing one of its ports to reach a port under Israeli occupation. This fact has led Lebanon officials to estimate that organizers would submit a travel plan to a different destination, perhaps Cyprus, only to change course during the course of their voyage.

Sources have also told Al-Hayat that organizers failed to appeal the government for the necessary permits, which include authorizing their departure as well as their travel.

Lebanese officials told the Arab daily that the bureaucratic procedures needed to approve such an endeavor included authorizing the ship's permit by the Lebanese ministry of transportation, including the approving the intended travelers, as well as the type of cargo the flotilla is to hold.

A senior Lebanese official added that, regardless of the procedures required, Lebanese law did not permit the transport of weapons on board ships.

Lebanon's Minister of Labor Ghazi Al Aridi told Lebanon's Al-Nahar that no official "request regarding the flotilla had been submitted," saying that Lebanon would not "allow anyone to preach us over our support of the Palestinians, but there are rules and they must be followed."

Al Aridi added that a permit could be given to any port but Gaza, since it was under Israeli occupation.

Earlier Sunday, Israel informed the United Nations and - through diplomatic channels - the Lebanese government that it reserves the right to use all means necessary to stop ships seeking to breach the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Israel warned 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," wrote Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev.



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