'Mariam' gets green light to set sail

All-female Lebanese aid ship to head to Cyprus first, says minister.

Ship 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ship 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Another blockade-busting ship with activists and aid on board could be bound for Gaza within a few days after Lebanese authorities granted permission Monday for it to sail first to Cyprus.
"We have been granted permission to go to Cyprus and we are now in the process of making final preparations," said Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian of Palestinian origin who heads the group organizing the trip— the Free Palestine Movement. Organizers said the ship plans to sail in the next few days, but did not give an exact date for departure because of security concerns.
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Lebanon has given permission for another flotilla to leave Tripoli for Gaza, according to a Beirut minister quoted by an-Nahar Monday morning.
Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said the ship named Julia is now docked at the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli and can set sail once it is cleared by port authorities there. He said the ship would be allowed to sail to Cyprus and not directly to Gaza in order to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for a full cessation of hostilities by both Lebanon and Israel and forbids any paramilitary activity south of the Litani River.Aridi said the voyage of the ship, the French-registered Julia, would not violate the terms of the cease-fire resolution. To clear the confusion over the latest Gaza flotilla initiative, Aridi added that while the ship was named Julia, the voyage itself was named Mariam.
He stressed that Lebanon’s government would take full responsibility over the ship’s course, its cargo and the female activists – both foreign and Lebanese – on board.
Israeli UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev warned Friday 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. She cited in particular the ships' departure from Lebanon which "remains in a state of hostility with Israel." She also cited "a possible link" between the organizers and the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah group.
Netanyahu: Easing of blockade will make things easier for civilians
Israel last week eased its ban on all but humanitarian goods for Gaza and said Sunday it will now allow in everything except weapons or other items deemed to have a military use.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee Monday that the easing of the blockade will make things easier for civilians while tightening the blockade on weapons.
The Israeli military said it was ready to increase the transfer of food and household items to Gaza by 30 percent, so that up to 140 trucks filled with goods would be able to pass into Gaza daily. It said it plans to meet with international agencies in the next few days to discuss advancing other projects like the construction of schools, hospitals and infrastructure works.
On Saturday, Lebanese voyage leader Samar Alhaj told an Arabic-language Nazareth radio station that the women on board the Julia were “the new secret weapon” in use against Israel, which she termed the “thieving enemy."
Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.