The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
The second Gaza flotilla will set sail in late June even without the support of
Turkey’s IHH – the lead NGO in last year’s flotilla - which is reportedly
considering pulling out of the initiative, an organizer told The Jerusalem Post
Speaking from Greece, Free Gaza member and International
Solidarity Movement co-founder Adam Shapiro said the “Turkish participation is
obviously something that we want to have as part of the overall flotilla but if
tomorrow they decide to postpone [their participation] then we will
IHH reconsidering flotilla over 'regional developments'
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Shapiro said all of the other ships taking part in the
flotilla are still finishing their preparations and are planning to set sail at
the end of the month regardless of a report in the Turkish press on Wednesday
that humanitarian relief foundation IHH is considering dropping out of the
flotilla to concentrate on the Syrian refugee issue in southern
Shapiro said that as opposed to reports that as many as 25 ships
would take part in the flotilla, there are only 10 that are scheduled to sail
later this month, with around 300 activists from dozens of countries taking
Meanwhile, Wednesday, the Israel Navy held a large-scale exercise
to prepare its forces for the operation to stop the flotilla.
exercise involved naval commandos from Flotilla 13 - better known as the
Shayetet - 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
The Israeli navy is under orders from the government to enforce
the Israeli sea blockade over Gaza, which officials have said is crucial for
preventing the flow of arms to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In recent months,
the Navy has reviewed the operation to stop last year’s flotilla and has drawn a
number of operational conclusions that it hopes will improve the upcoming
operation to stop the new flotilla and prevent or at least minimize the loss of
The Navy has been preparing rigorously for the operation,
enlisting all of its Flotilla 13 commandos from the reserves and running
different training models with various scenarios, from passive resistance – such
as sit-downs – to potential gunfights and booby-trapped ships.
It is also
preparing for the possibilities that commandos will encounter passive resistance
or mercenaries armed with knives, saws, bats, as well guns.
the final departure date for the flotilla is not known but they are planning to
meet in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the
month and head towards Gaza.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish daily Hurriyet
quoted IHH spokesman Huseyin Oruc as saying “we are reconsidering our plans. We
cannot close our eyes to the developments on our doorstep.
international community is talking about an intervention in Syria, a development
that would affect Turkey very much, as well as Palestine and peace in the
region. All the factors are inter-linked and we must be looking at all of them,”
Oruc told the newspaper.
“We will discuss the emerging conditions. Every
country has its own balance. From our point of view, the developments in
neighboring Syria are critically important,” he said.
published that the IHH stated that the Turkish government did not force its hand
in the decision, even though last week the paper quoted Turkish Foreign Minister
Ahmed Davutoglu as saying that “Israel should wait for a new Palestinian
government to be set up and then lift the blockade on Gaza. The aid flotilla
should also wait to see what happens with the Rafah border crossing being opened
and to see how Israel perceives the new government.”
As of early this
week, thousands of Syrian refugees had streamed into southern Turkey as the
Assad regime stepped up its violent crackdown on the popular uprising that broke
out in March.
Turkey has vowed to continue to help the refugees, but
there are indications that they are anxious for the international community to
help find a solution to the issue. The IHH’s reluctance puts into question
whether the Mavi Marmara will sail for Gaza in late June as was originally
Oruc said the IHH would make a decision by the end of the
When asked whether or not Egypt’s opening of the Rafah border
crossing earlier this month has led to criticism of the flotilla, Shapiro said
that Rafah “has not enabled any aid to actually get in. They’re allowing women
and children and men over 40 to get out.”
He said the Rafah crossing “is
not about aid, but then neither is our flotilla. It’s about raising awareness of
the ongoing occupation in Gaza and the freedom of the Palestinians. The aid has
always been secondary to the message of challenging the [Israeli]
Israeli human rights group Shurat Ha Din took credit for the
cancelation of a French boat that was supposed to take part in the flotilla, but
won't sail because they were not able to secure insurance. French CMA CGM
insurance and shipping company were going to insure the boat - the "Fleet of
Freedom 2" but decided not to after recieving a letter from the group warning
them of an impending lawsuit if they did.