News / Middle East

Turkish Group Planning New Attempt to Break Israel's Blockade of Gaza

Bulent Yildirim, the president of the IHH, the Turkish Islamic aid group that organized a Gaza-bound flotilla last May, speaks to the media in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 24, 2011 (file photo)
Bulent Yildirim, the president of the IHH, the Turkish Islamic aid group that organized a Gaza-bound flotilla last May, speaks to the media in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 24, 2011 (file photo)
Dorian Jones

Last May, Israeli forces killed nine Turkish citizens trying to break the Israeli sea blockade of the Gaza strip. The killings resulted in relations hitting rock bottom between these former close allies. Now a new crisis is looming. With the anniversary of the deaths approaching, another attempt is being planned to break Israel's blockade.  

Last year's killings saw nationwide protests in Turkey. The nine Turkish citizens were killed on the Turkish ship the "Mavi Marmara," which was part of a flotilla of ships seeking to break Israel's economic blockade of the Gaza strip. One year later,  the main organizers of last year's voyage, the Turkish-based Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, or IHH, is preparing a new blockade-busting voyage.

The Leader of the IHH is Bulent Yildirim, who said they are getting the flotilla ready and that there will be a ship from every country in Europe. Yildirim said the "Mavi Marmara" from Turkey will be part of it, and until the blockade is lifted on Gaza, the intifada will continue by land, by sea and by air.

Cooled relations


Last year's killing of Turkish citizens by Israeli forces, who maintain they were acting in self defense, saw relations between Israel and Turkey - former close allies - reach a crisis point. Almost 12 months later, there has been little improvement, with the Turkish government demanding compensation for the victims and apologies, something Israel refuses to do.

The prospect of a new flotilla caused Israeli ambassador Gaby Levy to call on the Turkish government to stop it. Senior Turkish diplomat Selim Yenel said there is little they can do.

"Its not a government act, we are doing our best to avoid any kind of tension," said Yenel. "In the end it's an NGO (non governmental agency).  As we could not prevent the first one, I don't think we can prevent the second one either. So we will, of course, if the flotilla sets sail, we will again be asking them to be prudent, but I think prudence is something Israelis should have to do much more."

Political Islamic ties

Istanbul University professor Nuray Mert said the Turkish government, however, can intervene by claiming there are close links between the Islamic-rooted charity organizing the flotilla and the ruling Turkish AK party, which also has its roots in political Islam. Mert warns that if the new flotilla sails, it will set back any chance of an improvement in Turkish-Israeli ties.

"Any chance of rapprochement, any level of rapprochement will be postponed," said Mert. "We will all know that the government has close links with the those people who were in the first flotilla and preparing for the next one, apparently. They are very close to the government, so of course the government can stop the effort."

Avoiding conflict?

Taking a tough stance against Israel plays well, though, with much of the Turkish electorate, especially among much of the ruling AK party's grass root supporters. That's according to political columnist of the Turkish daily Haberturk, Soli Ozel. He said that's an important consideration with an election coming up this June.

"Well, right before the election, the Turkish government is not going to do anything that will look as if they are caving into the Israelis," said Ozel. "But I hope it goes without a major incident and suppose both sides are going to be slightly wiser."

Observers warn that with Syria in turmoil, the last thing the region needs is a new crisis. But with the flotilla due to leave in the coming weeks, a new crisis could well be looming.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs