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The Hamas Flotillas

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Next Flotilla Crisis Sails from Lebanon with Hezbollah Woman's Brigade--Israel to Intercept

June 21st 2010

Israeli Military - Israeli Sub

The next flotilla crisis has set sail from Lebanon intent on confronting the Israeli Defense Forces and running the Gaza blockade. The ship, re-named ‘Mariam’ – the Arabic version of Mary, has been authorized to depart from a port in Lebanon. Originally called The Julia, the ship was renamed for this episode. The stated purpose of the organizers is to embarrass the Israelis by a confrontation with women sailing with large images of the Virgin Mary. The group's backers say they want to help expel "thieving Israelis" and "Jewish garbage" back to Europe.

Permission to sail was originally held up because Lebanese law prevents direct passage to Israeli waters; however, the ship pledged to sail first to Cyprus, so the trip was authorized by Beirut officials.

The group is comprised of Christian and Muslim women under purported Hezbollah aegis, funded by a major Hezbollah financier. Hezbollah banned Lebanese model and pop star Haifa Wehbe from boarding the female-only ship headed for Gaza, according to Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah on Friday. Hezbollah sources asserted, her “nudity … and immodest dress will harm the reputation of all women participating in the trip.”

Organizers of the Mariam are intent on breaking through the maritime interdiction zone imposed on Gaza by Israel. The blockade has been established to prevent ships from bringing in military material and supplies for combatants of the terrorist organization Hamas. According to Mariam spokesperson Rima Farah, “We are determined to go and our only weapons are our faith in the Virgin and humanity.” The ship has sailed with about thirty European activists and two score of journalists on board. 

The group claims to be bringing  aid, especially medicines, to Gaza. Since Israel abandoned Gaza in 1994, Israel has ensured that goods with possible military use do enter. Nonetheless, Hamas-controlled terrorist cells have consistently lobbed rockets into Israel from Gaza. Even as the Mariam set sail, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that Israel will begin allowing overland humanitarian shipments to enter Gaza.

Spokesperson Farah said, "The mission  is of a humanitarian nature and will be conducted on board a merchant ship and not a tourist vessel." She added, "A huge image of the Blessed Virgin will be raised on the ship and the boat will be loaded with medicines to treat cancer patients among the women and children. Religious songs," she added, "will accompany them on their expedition." Farah added, that the Mariam has “already begun to achieve its purpose, as Israeli leaders have launched warnings and threats."

The woman behind the expedition is Samar El-Hajj, a Hezbollah-linked lawyer who has questioned the investigation into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. El Hajj says that the Mariam is "the new secret weapon" against what she described as "the thieving enemy."

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon stated, “If there was a mask of humanitarianism on previous flotillas, the mask has been removed completely from these boats, which are carrying representatives of Hizbullah and Iran.” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting that Israel will intercept the ship; and that if the international community wants to avoid the possibility of another loaded confrontation, it should preempt the provocative flotilla. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that any such vessel will be intercepted by the Israeli navy, and its crew and passengers possibly subjected to prison time. Barak said Israel would hold Lebanon "responsible" should the ship depart from its shores for Gaza. Meanwhile, Iran has said that it will send its own flotilla of naval vessels to Gaza to bring aid.

The women's group claims to have no association with Hezbollah or with other political organizations. "We are not related to the 'Party of God' (Hezbollah), but the Mother of God." Israeli media sources report that the Lebanese ship is indeed sponsored by Hezbollah and that the group's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, personally tasked El-Hajj with leading the mission. El-Hajj is the well-known wife of a Lebanese security officer believed to have participated in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, who was an opponent of Hezbollah and its Syrian allies. Ali El-Hajj is currently in a Lebanese jail.

“This has nothing to do with Hizbullah, although it is an honor for us to be supporters of the resistance,” El-Hajj insisted. She also thanked Israel, which has vowed to stop the ship from reaching Gaza "for its threats which only strengthened these women's willpower to make the trip. We are not afraid."

The financial backer of the Mariam and one other ship is Syrian businessman Yasser Kashlak, who has openly supported Hezbullah. He told the terrorist organization’s Al-Manar television satellite network that the boats will take “Europe’s garbage [the Jews] that came to my homeland back to their homelands.”

Cutting Edge Senior Contributor Martin Barillas edits www.SperoForum.com.

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