Turkey: Turkish Flotilla 'Not Ankara's Concern'
A flotilla that plans to sail to Gaza in defiance of Israel's naval ban on Hamas is “not Ankara's concern,” Turkish officials said Thursday. Last year nine Turkish citizens were killed on a similar flotilla.
Israel's Ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, had warned the Turkish government that an attempt to deliver goods to Gaza outside existing channels would be considered a provocation. All goods may be delivered to Gaza by land, with the exception of weapons and “dual use” materials that can be used in weapons manufacture.
The new flotilla plans to sail from Turkey in late May, under the auspices of the Free Gaza Movement, a extremist group that has shown support for Hamas. Previous “flotilla” activists have met with senior Hamas terrorists, including Ismail Haniyeh, the group's head in Gaza.
Its goal is to “break the siege of Gaza,” allowing Hamas to import and export materials with no oversight.
Last year, a similar flotilla set sail for Gaza. Included was the ship Mavi Marmara, which included many passengers affiliated with the Turkish Islamic group IHH.
When the ships refused to stop as they approached Gaza, IDF commandos boarded the vessels in order to turn them towards an Israeli port. The passengers on most boats complied. Passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara, however, attacked the soldiers with clubs and knives, and dragged three wounded soldiers below decks.
Fearing a kidnapping, the commandos opened fire on their assailants, killing nine. Turkey accused Israel of murder over the incident, and cut ties with Israel, demanding an apology.
While the 2010 flotilla claimed to carry humanitarian goods for Gaza residents, when the boats were unloaded it was revealed that most of the “aid” was worthless, and that the Mavi Marmara had carried no aid at all.
The Mavi Marmara is to be the flagship of the planned May 2011 flotilla.