Mavi Marmara Nixed From "Freedom Flotilla 2"
The Turkish IHH has pulled the Mavi Marmara out of this years "Freedom Flotilla 2," the AFP reported Friday.
IHH representatives held a press conference on members said that port authorities in Turkey did not provide them with the necessary permits for the Mavi Marmara, which organizers hoped would serve as an iconic flagship for this years flotilla.
The Mavi Marmara was at the center of an international media fire-storm during the 2010 flotilla when self-proclaimed 'peace activists' on board attempted to lynch members of the IDF Shayetet-13 – Israel's naval commando unit – which boarded the ship in accordance with international maritime law.
Nine members of the lynch-mob were killed when the commandos were forced to open fire to save their imperiled comrades.
Flotilla organizers have said second Gaza flotilla will set sail in late June even without the IHH's support. Other ships are planned to depart from ports in France, Greece and Spain. A US group is hoping to send a ship to participate in the flotilla.
The ships plan to attempt to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Israel has imposed to prevent weapons from reaching the Hamas terror organization, and others, in its territory.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has likewise called for activists to be discouraged from setting sail for Gaza, but Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted a democracy could not prevent private challenges to what he characterized as an "illegal blockade."
Davutoglu did not explain, in light of that sentiment, why Turkey refused to issue the requisite permits for the Mavi Marmara to depart and participate in the flotilla.
Meanwhile, the IDF held a large drill Wednesday in preparation for this year's flotilla. The drill was just one of numerous rigorous exercises the IDF has conducted in order to prepare for every eventuality from passive resistance to potential gunfights and booby-trapped ships.
The exercise involved naval commandos from the Shayatet-13 as well as other naval units, and special forces from throughout the defense establishment, who were being included in the operation as part of the lessons learned from the botched raid on the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger ship last May.
Flotilla organizers refuse to release the final departure date for this years flotilla, but it is known they are planning to meet in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of June and head towards Gaza.