BEIRUT (AFP) – The Lebanese Hezbollah on Friday denied it was backing an all-women aid flotilla planning to sail from Lebanon to Gaza, saying it did not want to give Israel a pretext to attack the activists.
“Hezbollah confirms that it decided from the very beginning to stay away from this humanitarian act in terms of organisation, logistic support and participation so as not to give the Israeli enemy any pretext to attack the participants,” it said in a statement.
“Hezbollah firmly believes this peaceful, civilian effort will succeed,” the Shiite Muslim group added.
A group of Lebanese women activists joined by Europeans and journalists are planning to sail for Gaza in the latest bid to break Israel’s four-year blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.
The organisers have not yet announced a departure date for the ship, christened “Mariam” in honour of the Virgin Mary.
The plans for the women-only operation come 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.
But Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday warned Lebanon it would be responsible for any “violent and dangerous confrontation.”
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.
The Jewish state fought a deadly war with the Lebanese Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. The battles destroyed much of Lebanon’s infrastructure and killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mainly soldiers.
The Jewish state recently accused Syria, which along with Iran is a main backer of Hezbollah, of smuggling sophisticated arms to the Shiite militant movement.