The Turkish group that organized the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010 is planning to launch another aid convoy to the Gaza Strip, this time with an armed Turkish military escort.
According to a Gulf Online report published in English by The Middle East Monitor on Saturday, IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) chairman Bulent Yildrim said his organization has started the process for obtaining a permit to launch another aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip and that “Turkish army troops will accompany the ships to protect [them] from any potential attack.”
Yildrim emphasized that the organization demanded the protection for them as Turkish citizens.
On Sunday, the IHH published a Facebook status indicating that discussions about sending another flotilla were still ongoing.
In May 2010, the Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli commandos as it attempted to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the ensuing melee, after the Israeli soldiers were attacked with iron bars and wooden bats, troops opened fire and nine Turkish activists were killed; 10 Israeli soldiers were injured. Israel designates the IHH as a terrorist organization.
The incident triggered a crisis in relations between Israel and Turkey, which were already strained since Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-2009. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at then president Shimon Peres at the Davos Economic Forum, telling him: “When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. I know well how you hit and kill children on beaches.”
Following the flotilla fiasco, Turkey demanded a formal apology from Israel, which it received last year after the visit of US President Barack Obama, and compensation for the families of the flotilla’s victims; negotiations are ongoing.
Turkish-Israeli ties have yet to recover and they continue to be shaky, with Turkish officials often unleashing scathing criticism of Israel.
Erdogan last week accused Israel of being “more barbaric than Hitler” since it launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza on July 8, aimed at stopping rocket fire and destroying tunnels that infiltrate into Israel.