Turk Student at Hebrew U Arrested for Aiding Banned Arab Group

Israeli security officials have arrested a Turkish student at Hebrew U who is the founder of an outlawed group that backs a huge flotilla to Gaza.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 11:08

Pro-Hamas activists on Free Gaza boat
Pro-Hamas activists on Free Gaza boat
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel intelligence and security agents have released for publication the arrest two weeks ago of a Turkish student at Hebrew University who is accused of helping an outlawed pro-Hamas group. Izzet Sahin began living in Judea and Samaria last November and was arrested while trying to travel from the Judean city of Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, to Samaria.

"He is suspected of activity on behalf of IHH in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). This is a group that Israel banned in 2008," an Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) spokeswoman told Reuters. "In the context of these activities, he helped various outlawed organizations in Judea and Samaria, and he was arrested on suspicion of endangering public security."

Activists in Turkey plan to take to the streets to protest the arrest of Izzet, a founder of the IHH “Humanitarian Relief Foundation” which also is co-sponsoring a huge flotilla that began sailing for Gaza Wednesday morning. Israeli officials said the arrest is not connected with the flotilla, which is aimed at breaking Israel’s sovereignty over the Gaza coastal waters, as defined in the Oslo Accords.

A demonstration in Istanbul on Saturday included signs proclaiming that “Zionist Oppressors Cannot Stop Us From Helping Gaza.” Ridvan Kaya, president of the Turkish NGO Ozgurder, said the arrest and ensuing gag order for 12 days are "an insult to Turkey [and] means that Israel can accuse our citizens of anything she wishes.”

Part of the eight-ship flotilla left Ireland for Gaza on Wednesday morning. The combined effort by pro-Hamas groups includes the Free Gaza Movement, which last summer began efforts to challenge the Israeli Navy. The rest of the boats are to leave from Greece and Turkey within the next 10 days.

The Foreign Ministry initially ignored the boats, loaded with aid, in order to prevent a publicity stunt, but it changed its policy after a continuation of sailings that were not checked by security officials. Until now, the Navy has stopped most of the boats, often diverting them to Ashdod or Ashkelon to unload food and medical donations.

The IDF has denied accusations by ship passengers that it fired at them, but the latest flotilla presents a serious diplomatic and military challenge.

Five ships are to be loaded with 5,000 tons of building material, food, medical supplies and merchandise, despite almost daily shipments through the Gaza crossings of humanitarian aid. Israel has severely restricted building materials because they often are used to build Kassam rockets, weapons factories and storehouses.

Three other boats will carry approximately 600 activists, including legislators and journalists. As in the past, the Free Gaza movement has carried on a huge publicity campaign to emphasize its donations of medical supplies, such as wheelchairs.

The de facto Hamas government previously has confiscated several ambulances that were donated for citizens.

One of the publicity stunts has been to name the ship from Ireland in memory of Rachel Corrie, the American citizen who was accidentally killed when she laid down in front of an IDF bulldozer that was demolishing homes of Gaza terrorists in 2003.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has backed the flotilla. John Ging, spokesman for UNRWA's Gaza activities, told a Norwegian newspaper last week, "We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organizations have been successful in similar previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible."