A “women-only” ship, complete with a nun and a heavily pregnant mother, has cleared political and technical obstacles and is set to sail for Gaza, presenting Israel with a new challenge. The ship is supposed to leave Tripoli by Sunday night, its co-coordinator, Hizbullah-backer Samar al-Hajj, told the London Guardian.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told Israel National News, “There are no limits on goods going to Gaza, and any ships trying to bring so-called aid to Gaza will be regarded as provocations.”
The sight of women—supposedly unarmed—facing Israeli naval commandos trying to stop it from breaking the sea embargo on Hamas-controlled Gaza faces Israel with a new public relations challenge. The women have dramatized possible violence by preparing to travel equipped with blood test equipment “in case we come under attack from Israel and you need a blood transfusion,” al-Hajj said.
She added, “We will not even bring cooking knives” in order to prevent accusations that they are armed.
Pro-Arab activists have been preparing the Mariam ship for more than a month, but Lebanese and Cypriot authorities had refused to clear the boat and a sister ship for sailing. It must dock in Cyprus to prevent a claim by Israel that it will intercept the ship because it is sailing towards Israel from the declared enemy state of Lebanon.
Israel has succeeded in turning away several attempts to challenge the embargo without violent confrontations—until Turkish terror activists clashed with its navy commandos on May 31. Israel suffered public relations damage following the deaths of nine Turkish members of the IHH organization.
Subsequent documented evidence that IHH is a charity front for terrorists, along with videos of the terror-trained activists assaulting the commandos, has reversed much of the damage. Israel has agreed to participate in a United Nations probe of the violence besides conducting its own investigation under the Turkel Commission.
The sailing of the Mariam has been carefully geared for public consumption. Besides the nun and a pregnant woman, the crew includes Christians and Muslims, and the ship has been named after the Virgin Mary.
Israel has warned that allowing ships, even those with aid, to reach the Gaza coast would set a precedent that would allow Hamas to freely import advanced weapons.
Hamas recently has complained that much of the aid on the six-ship flotilla May 31 included useless medical equipment and outdated medicines. The Mavi Marmara ship, whose activists clashed with Navy commandos, was later found to be sailing without any humanitarian aid.