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Middle east

Gaza-bound flotilla with all-female crew sparks controversy

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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-17

Governments in Lebanon and Egypt on Thursday condemned warnings from Israel to "Mariam", an aid ship with an all-female crew bound for Gaza in an attempt to break the blockade. A May 31 naval attack on another Gaza-bound flotilla left nine dead.

AFP - Lebanon and Egypt's prime ministers slammed Israel on Thursday over warnings against an all-women Lebanese aid ship that aims to break the Gaza blockade.

"The Israeli government continues to threaten Lebanon," Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in response to a question at a news conference with the visiting Egytian premier, Ahmed Nazif.

"There are fleets coming from Europe," he added. "Will the Israeli defence minister attack Europe or other countries sending aid to Gaza?"

"Enough lies ... Israel's actions are not humanitarian and rejected by all human rights treaties."

A group of Lebanese women activists joined by Europeans and journalists are planning to sail for Gaza on a ship -- christened "Mariam" in honour of the Virgin Mary -- in the latest bid to break Israel's four-year blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

For his part, Nazif warned that an Israeli attack on the women's ships "might have dire consequences as we saw with the Turkish Freedom flotilla."

"The region is facing a crossroads between the will for peace, which all Arab states voice and the international community supports, and Israel's reluctance and intransigence," Nazif said.

The plans for a women-only operation comes as Israel faces an international backlash over its deadly May 31 seizure of a six-ship aid flotilla bound for Gaza, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by naval commandos.

Earlier Thursday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned Lebanon it would be responsible for any "violent and dangerous confrontation."

But Israel also approved a plan to ease its blockade of Gaza after heavy international pressure, while providing few details on what new goods would be allowed in.

Nazif arrived in Beirut Thursday on a two-day visit for talks with top officials.

He met Hariri immediately after his arrival and the two signed 18 agreements to boost economic cooperation, Hariri's office said.

Bilateral trade and investment between Egypt and Lebanon doubled to more than half a billion dollars between 2005 and 2009, Nazif said during the meeting.
 

Date created : 2010-06-17

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