BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkish activists: New flotilla set for Gaza

A Palestinian man prepares to carry bags of flour he received at a distribution center of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City August 11, 2014. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Hams)

ISTANBUL: A Turkish aid group said Monday it would send ships again to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, four years after Israeli commandos stormed its flotilla bound for the Palestinian territory and killed 10 people.

The incident wrecked diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel, once close Middle East allies but whose relationship had been tense since late 2008 over a previous Israeli military operation against Islamist militants dominating Gaza.

The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) 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," referring to the latest, monthlong war. Fighting has abated under a 72-hour cease-fire deal.

"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 will hold a news conference Tuesday, she said.

Nine Turks died in May 2010 in international waters after Israeli soldiers raided their vessel, the Mavi Marmara, leading a flotilla to break Israel's seven-year blockade of Gaza. A 10th Turkish activist died in May from wounds suffered in the attack.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was elected president Sunday, has been among the most vocal critics of Israel's conflict with the Islamist Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

 

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