'IHH will not take part in upcoming Gaza flotilla'
Report: Turkish NGO pulls out of aid flotilla for "technical reasons"; Free Gaza activist says flotilla will go on without Turkish group, is about 'occupation' awareness, not humanitarian aid.
By JPOST.COM STAFF, BEN HARTMAN, YAAKOV KATZ
Turkish NGO IHH will not participate in the upcoming Turkish aid flotilla to Gaza, AFP reported on Friday.The message was relayed to AFP by Dror Feiler, an Israeli-Swedish artist who participated in last year's flotilla, who said that the cancellation was due to "technical reasons."RELATED:IHH reconsidering flotilla over 'regional developments' UN chief says Gaza flotilla panel to report in July How will Israel deal with the next flotilla A flotilla organizer told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the second Gaza flotilla will set sail in late June even without the IHH's support.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 continue.”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 Turkey.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 part.Meanwhile, Wednesday, the Israel Navy held a large-scale exercise to prepare its forces for the operation to stop the flotilla.The 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 last May.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 human life.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.Shapiro said 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.
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