The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), which tried to send the Mavi Marmara in 2010 to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, said Monday it would send another flotilla to challenge the blockade.
The organization – which Israel banned in 2008 because of its links to Hamas and then placed on its terrorist watch list in 2010 – said in an e-mailed statement that members of a “coalition” of pro-Palestinian activists from 12 countries had met in Istanbul over the weekend and decided to launch a convoy “in the shadow of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza.”
“The Freedom Flotilla Coalition affirmed that, as most governments are complicit, the responsibility falls on civil society to challenge the Israeli blockade on Gaza,” it said.
An IHH spokeswoman did not elaborate. The group is to hold a news conference on Tuesday, she said.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman did not respond to the statement, saying there was no reason for Israel to react to every IHH statement. Two weeks ago the organization said it would send a flotilla that would be protected by the Turkish navy, something that, so far, has not materialized.
IHH chairman Bulent Yildrim was quoted at the time as saying the flotilla would set sail as soon as it received the necessary permit from the authorities in Ankara.
Jerusalem had been waiting eagerly for the Turkish presidential elections that were held on Sunday and won by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be over, hoping that the end of the campaign would also put an end to Erdogan’s virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments.
The sense in Jerusalem was that Erdogan made these comments – such as that Israel was committing genocide and was worse than Hitler – because they played well on the Turkish street and were for electioneering purposes.
Israel hopes that now that the elections are over, it may be possible to calm the situation down and – as one official phrased it – return to the “normal unpleasant relationship” with Turkey. Turkish permission for the ship to set sail, or any type of protection given to the flotilla, would set back any attempts to forge a constructive working diplomatic relationship with Erdogan’s Turkey.
Nine Turks were killed on the Mavi Marmara in 2010 after IDF commandos, who boarded the ship to keep it from breaking the blockade, were attacked by those on board.Reuters contributed to this report.