A new aid flotilla to sail to Gaza – four years after the Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara

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The front of the 25,000-strong march in London in June 2010 against the Israeli boarding of the Mavi Marmara, killing nine protesters
The front of the 25,000-strong march in London in June 2010 against the Israeli boarding of the Mavi Marmara, killing nine protesters

FOUR years after the Israeli military assault on the Mavi Marmara, Turkish relatives of victims express their willingness to join the new aid flotilla that is expected to sail to the Gaza Strip this year.

Relatives of the Mavi Marmara victims, who were killed in the Israeli raid in 2010 welcomed the International Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s (FFC) intention to sail boats loaded with humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip this year, saying that they wanted to take part in the convoy.

The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla, which was intercepted by Israeli forces on May 31, 2010 who killed nine activists and wounded dozens.

Their aim was to carry aid to Gazan people by breaking the naval blockade on the Palestinian territory.

‘The flotilla will sail again for humanity. I hope it will be successful,’ said Cigdem Topcuoglu, 58, who travelled on the Mavi Marmara ship in 2010 – together with her husband Cetin Topcuoglu shot dead during the raid. He was 54.

‘I’ve made an application to join the flotilla. I hope I will be there,’ she added. ‘It is very good news,’ 26 year-old Mustafa Dogan said. ‘I want to join it as well. Our desire is the blockade to be lifted.’

His brother, 19 year-old Furkan Dogan – who had a dual Turkish-US nationality – was the youngest victim of the attack. According to an autopsy report, he died of five gunshot wounds at a distance of 45 centimetres.

Hasan Yaldiz, whose brother Fahri was also among the nine Turkish citizens killed during the raid, will also take part in this flotilla.

Ismail Bilges, son of 61 year-old Ibrahim Bilges, an electric engineer killed in the attack, said: ‘World states are incapable of taking action to lift the embargo on Gaza. We, as relatives of martyrs, really think that a civil initiative should be taken.’

Since 2007, the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip has been imposed by Israel, from which most relatives expect an intervention. I think they will try to block the flotilla again but will be more cautious this time,’ Bilges stated.‘If they do the same thing as in 2010, their end will come,’ Yaldiz warned.

In a press conference held in Istanbul last Tuesday, the International Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) announced the flotilla would leave within the year. The FFC is a solidarity movement formed in 2010 which aims to end the siege of Gaza.

Meanwhile, in Gaza City, Hamas’ military wing is continuing to produce M75 missiles in the besieged coastal enclave, the group said last Thursday.

The Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV channel aired footage on Wednesday showing a workshop manufacturing rockets in the Gaza Strip.

‘Your futile leadership claimed they destroyed our missile potency, but our manufacturers continue to produce missiles and send them to the field,’ a member of the manufacturing crew says in the footage.

M75 rockets are locally produced in Gaza by Hamas engineers and have a range of roughly 80 kilometres. They were fired at Tel Aviv for the first time during Israel’s 2012 military assault on Gaza.

In addition, Hamas in the occupied West Bank called for a widespread uprising on Friday, 15 August, to support the Gaza Strip, to support the Palestinian negotiating team in Cairo, and to stress the unity of people standing behind the option of resistance.

In a statement, the movement called on residents of the West Bank and factions and vital forces to escalate the pressure on the occupation. It said that the resistance in the West Bank started to regain strength and is spreading by the day.

The statement said that ‘in an unprecedented development, the heroes of the West Bank carried out more than 30 shootings since the aggression on the Gaza Strip began, they detonated dozens of explosive devices, and carried out many stabbings and ran over people with vehicles, killing several Zionists and wounding dozens of soldiers and settlers.’

The movement said that since the aggression started, there have been 22 martyrs in the West Bank and Jerusalem and more than 1,000 have been wounded in the continuous uprisings and the violent confrontations at dozens of contact areas on a daily basis.

The movement also saluted the hero martyr Zakariya al-Aqra who was martyred in an armed confrontation with the occupation forces in Qabalan south of Nablus after carrying out several shootings against the occupation forces.

The movement signed off its statement by saying that what is happening now in the towns and villages and refugee camps in the West Bank and inside Israel shows the cohesiveness of our people which the heroes of Palestine are manifesting on the ground every day.

However, Israeli forces detained at least 20 Palestinians early last Thursday in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement that Israeli forces detained Oday Amin Muhammad from Nablus at Yitzhar checkpoint.

In Bethlehem, Israeli forces detained four teenage Palestinian boys from the southern West Bank village of Husan west of Bethelehem early on Thursday morning, according to locals. Eyewitness Hayda Hamamrah said that dozens of Israeli soldiers stormed the village in military vehicles and ransacked several homes for inspection before they detained four teenagers.

He identified them as 17-year-old Haydar Iyad Hamamrah, 16-year-old Muhammad Hasan Hamamrah, 16-year-old Firas Ibrahim Hamamrah, and 17-year-old Bakr Shawasha. The detainees were taken to an unknown destination.

In Hebron, undercover Israeli forces detained a Hamas leader in the town of Beit Ummar last Thursday, a local community leader said. The spokesperson of Beit Ummar’s popular committee said Israeli forces from an undercover unit who disguise themselves as Palestinians, known in Hebrew as Mistaravim, kidnapped Ahmad Khader Abed Abu Maria, 47, from his house at 10am.

His relative, Hashem Khader Abu Maria, 45, was shot and killed during a Gaza solidarity protest in the town on July 25. Locals in the town said they noticed 15 masked men hiding in an ice-cream truck in the town and began throwing stones at the vehicle.

The masked men, who were undercover Israeli forces, fired live ammunition at the villagers, with no injuries reported. Israeli soldiers then fired tear gas canisters at locals who had attempted to push back the undercover unit, who retreated to the nearby illegal Karmi Tsur settlement.

Israeli forces also raided the home of Muhammad Munir Radwan Qawqas, 36, and pointed a gun at his mother. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to Etzion military base.

Muhammad is an ex-prisoner who spent 10 years in Israeli prisons. He is a married father of two girls and teaches Hebrew in a school in Bethlehem.

Israeli forces also detained Usama Mahmoud Awad Kamil, 26, and Ahmad Khaled Mahmoud Kamil, 26, in the Jenin village of Qabatiya.