(photo credit: Associated Press)
TRIPOLI, Lebanon — A Lebanese ship carrying aid and women activists with the intention of reaching Gaza will set sail Sunday from Lebanon despite warnings that they will not be allowed to make it past Cyprus, organizers said Thursday.
The ship cannot travel directly to Gaza from Lebanon because Beirut is still technically at war with Israel, forcing the vessel to pass through a third country — in this case, Cyprus — before heading for the blockaded Palestinian territory.
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But on Thursday, the Cypriot ambassador to Lebanon told The Associated Press that the boat, the Miriam, will be turned back when it reaches Cyprus.
"We decided that such a ship will not be allowed to enter Cyprus and if such a Gaza-bound ship docks in a Cypriot port the crew and the passengers will be deported to their country of origin," Kyriacos Kouros said.
Kouros said Cyprus has a "moral and legal responsibility" to those allowed into its waters, and that a blockade-busting ship could endanger lives along with "regional peace and stability."
But organizer Samar al-Hajj was undeterred Thursday, and said ship, named after the Virgin Mary, will set out with between 50-75 female activists on a mission to deliver cancer medication, books and toys.
"We are not children who can be told to stay home," al-Hajj told The AP after a chaotic news conference outside the port in Tripoli, where security forces prevented the group from speaking to the media from the ship.
She could not say how much cargo the ship would carry, but said it would
be a "symbolic" amount.
Al-Hajj said Lebanon's president, prime minister and parliament speaker
did not respond to her requests to meet, which appeared to signal the
government's lack of support for the venture.
The trip comes more than two months after the fatal Mavi Marmara incident.