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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora