More flotillas for Gaza, Lebanese army joins Hizballah war alert
Officers of Hizballah's Iranian-trained marine arm and surface rocket units were sighted Saturday, June 19, going in an out of the small Lebanese Navy's bases in Beirut and Juniya. debkafile's intelligence sources report the Lebanese army and Hizballah are pooling their military resources to be ready for any Israeli action against Lebanese ships heading for Gaza.
The tiny Lebanese Navy, no more than a handful of fast coastal guard boats, has been placed on alert, as have Hizballah's coastal rocket positions. The Shiite terrorist group has also deployed marines in Beirut harbour against a possible Israeli naval commando raid.
Lebanese ship or ships bound for Gaza are potentially a more dangerous spark for a regional conflagration than even the convoys Ankara and Tehran – although all of them are pledged to the same mission of busting the Israeli blockade of Gaza and may mount a concerted assault.
All three are clearly coordinated: The two-ship Lebanese convoy planning to sail 70 women from different countries to Gaza is funded by Yasser Qaslaq, a Palestinian who in the guise of a Lebanese businessman acts as money courier between Tehran, Hizballah and extremist Palestinian organizations.
Israel's UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev warned Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Israel reserves the right to use "all necessary means" to stop the Lebanese boats. Attempts to sail from Lebanon, which maintains a state of war with Israel, she said, would raise regional tensions.
But instead of dealing with the mounting crisis, Ban again demanded that Israel accept an international investigation of its raid of a Turkish ship on May 31 and the nine deaths aboard.
Anxious to keep its head down, Hizballah claimed Saturday that it was not involved in the Lebanese flotilla, thereby trying to pass the buck to Beirut and Jerusalem. But its spokesmen pointedly avoided a guarantee to stay out of it if the Israel navy boarded Lebanese ships. The Iranian-backed terrorists, who in the name of "resistance" maintain a separate armed force armed with advanced weapons in violation of several UN Security Council resolutions, could not stand aside if Beirut accused Israel of an act of war.
The first Lebanese boat heading out for Gaza waters therefore holds the potential of scuppering the Lebanese-Israel truce under the UN Security Council Resolution which cut short the 2006 war, required the Hizballah militia to disarm, and posted UN-flagged German, Spanish and Italian naval units opposite Lebanon's Mediterranean coast.
Their mission was – and is – to prevent Hizballah receiving weapons smuggled by sea or taking up an active presence in Lebanese ports and anchorages. However, the peacekeepers have never proved able to stop Hizballah building up one of the biggest rocket and missile arsenal in the Middle East – by sea and by land.
Today, the Lebanese army is reverting to its 2006 collaboration with Lebanon that permitted Hizballah missile teams to use its coastal radar stations to fire the Silkworm C-802 missiles which crippled the Israeli Hanit missile boat.
Beset by international censure, the Israeli government does not appear to have a clear policy for contesting the expanding pressure by hostile nations and entities for smashing its blockade against a Hamas regime which, like Hizballah, is dedicated to total war on Israel. They have hit on a winning ruse: Civilian vessels are used for apparent "humanitarian aid" missions. Easing the goods embargo has not done Israel any good at all.
Egypt has folded under the pressure and rejected Israel's request to close the Suez Canal to Iranian ships heading for Gaza by invoking the Istanbul Treaty which authorizes Cairo to deny access only to ships of nations at war with Egypt. At the same time, Cairo could if it wished stop ships for inspection and keep them hanging about for a long period.
Not only is Egypt avoiding this, but its government and Tehran are in talks for Iranian flights bearing equipment for Gaza to land at Cairo and El Arish airports. One will carry a large Iranian parliamentary delegation lead by Speaker Ali Larijani, who is determined to pose on the Gaza-Israeli border and make a speech opposite Israeli border positions.
This incident highlights Israel's error in abandoning the key southern Gaza Philadelphia route in 2005 after disengaging from the Gaza Strip. Iranian ships can accordingly touch land by sailing along the seam line between the waters of Egypt and the Gaza Strip, exactly opposite the Mediterranean end of the Philadelphia route. They can unload their cargo and send it into the Gaza Strip through the Philadelphi corridor without hindrance, unless Israel is prepared to venture into Egyptian territory to stop them.