Marmara Returns to Turkey

Ships that participated in Gaza flotilla have left Israel and returned to Turkey.

Elad Benari , | updated: 3:06 AM

Mavi Marmara
Mavi Marmara
Defense Ministry Spokesperson

The Mavi Marmara, the Turkish passenger ship that participated in the Gaza aid flotilla and on which the IDF raid which left nine Turkish citizens dead took place on May 31, was towed out of the Haifa port on Thursday. The ship was towed a large Turkish tug boat which had been sent to collect it.

The return of the Marmara was enabled following an agreement that was reached between Turkey and Israel.

The ship was transferred a few days ago from a pier which docks ships that had been seized, to another pier reserved for civilian ships. There, the Marmara underwent renovations and final preparations in order to be returned to Turkey.

Two additional boats from the flotilla which were seized by the navy during the raid were also due to be towed out of the southern port of Ashdod and returned to Turkey.

In a statement released on Thursday, Israel’s Defense Ministry said: “Three Turkish towing ships will arrive in Israel today. Their crews will receive three vessels anchored in Israel along with the personal equipment that was aboard them.”

The statement added that the ships were transferred to the Turkish delegates following a decision by Israel’s political leadership and by the request of Turkish authorities. It emphasized that the ships tried to break the naval blockade on the Hamas government in Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Turkish officials, in which it expressed expectations that Ankara will prevent any more ships from attempting to breach the naval blockade on the Strip, and added that Israel regularly transfers goods into Gaza via land crossings.

Earlier this week, Israel agreed to participate in a United Nations inquiry into the flotilla. The Inner Cabinet of seven ministers voted "to allow the panel access to material gathered" by two Israeli committees, one which has completed a report on the IDF and the other being the Turkel committee, which is examining the incident from military and political perspectives.

The United Nations inquiry committee will be headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and will include representatives from Israel, Turkey and the United States.