Turkish aid flotilla to sail for Gaza

By Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

The Turkish humanitarian relief organization (IHH) is now planning a “Freedom Flotilla II” to ferry humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, currently under blockade by Israel, sealed off from Egypt, and locked in conflict with the Israel Defense Forces.

IHH chairman Bulent Yildrim announced the plans for the flotilla on Thursday. He explained to Gulf Online that the IHH is currently in the process of obtaining permits for the voyage. Once approved, other international organizations will prepare the flotilla for sea.

Yildrim, a lead organizer of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla I said that Turkish troops will escort the upcoming flotilla to protect it and its passengers. The IHH had demanded such military protection on the account of the Turkish government’s duty to protect its citizens.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla I set out from Turkey in 2010 under IHH leadership and was intercepted in international waters by the Israeli Navy. After the flotilla ignored Israeli warnings to divert to Israel’s Ashdod port or be boarded, Navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara and were involved in clashes that left nine passengers dead and one Israeli soldier seriously wounded, according to reports.

The Israeli Turkel Commission found both the Gaza blockade and the Navy’s actions on the Mavi Marmara legal. A UN investigation found knives, pipes, and bats on the ship’s deck that were believed to be used by the passengers during the confrontation. The ship received a hero’s welcome upon its return to Turkey.