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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.