BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon said on Tuesday it would hold Israel responsible for any attack, in response to Israeli warnings that it would use “all necessary force” to stop aid boats planning to sail to blockaded Gaza.
“Israel will be held fully responsible for any attack on Lebanon,” the foreign ministry said in a letter to the United Nations.
Lebanon “can not prohibit a ship from leaving its ports if its cargo, passengers and destination all comply with Lebanese law,” it said in the letter.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations warned the world body last week that the Jewish state was entitled to use “all necessary force” to stop the Lebanese activists’ boats.
On Monday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak also reiterated a warning that Lebanon would be responsible for any “violent and dangerous confrontation” with vessels sailing to Gaza from its shores.
In defiance of the Israeli warnings, Lebanese civilian groups are still planning to transport aid, including medical supplies, by sea to the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian territory via Cyprus.
Lebanon has no diplomatic ties with or sea routes to Israel.
One of two boats, the “Naji al-Ali,” on Monday received Lebanon’s green light to depart for Cyprus on the first leg of the trip to Gaza, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas. It is currently docked in the northern port of Tripoli.
The vessel would need Cypriot authorisation to depart for Gaza from its shores, but officials in Cyprus said on Tuesday that the island was keeping in place a ban on ships departing for Gaza.
Organisers in Lebanon have said they may change course before reaching the island and head straight towards the Palestinian territory.
A second ship, the “Mariam”, also plans to carry aid to Gaza in another attempt to break the four-year siege of Gaza with some 50 women activists on board, including 30 Lebanese.
The “Mariam” has not yet been given Lebanese clearance to sail.
Israel came under international censure over its May 31 seizure of a six-ship aid fleet bound for Gaza, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by Israeli naval commandos in clashes on the lead boat.
A Lebanese freighter which tried to deliver aid to Gaza last year was intercepted by Israeli warships.