ANKARA, (AFP) — The Turkish ship that became famous after it was raided by Israeli troops while en route to Gaza will not join an upcoming aid mission to the Palestinian territory, organisers said Friday.
“After the damage caused to the Mavi Marmara (during the raid), we are not in a position to go to sea,” said Bulent Yildirim, the president of the Islamic charity IHH which owns the ship and is spearheading the mission.
Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists when they boarded the Mavi Marmara during a mission in May last year to break the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza.
Around 10 ships from several countries are expected to join a new flotilla which is scheduled to set sail at the end of June to break the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza.
“Our destination is Gaza and our aim is non-violent,” said Dror Feiler, a Swedish-Israeli musician speaking for the organisers. “Our goal is to force a permanent end to the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.”
The raid last year ignited a diplomatic row between Israel and Turkey, two countries that once had good relations.
Israel has strongly urged Turkey to block the flotilla from leaving this time, warning that its forces will again take action to prevent activists from arriving in Gaza.
Egypt has reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, allowing more material to flow into the territory and effectively weakening Israel’s blockade of the coastal territory.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on activists to rethink the upcoming mission after the Rafah opening.
He suggested that aid could now be delivered without provoking Israel or risking the lives of citizens.
Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006, after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was snatched by a group of Gaza-based militants. It tightened the restrictions a year later, when the radical Palestinian Hamas movement took control of the enclave.