The Palestinian militant group Hamas has unveiled a monument to nine Turkish activists killed a year ago in an Israeli raid on an international flotilla seeking to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh led Tuesday's ceremony at Gaza City's harbor, marking the first anniversary of the May 31, 2010 raid, in which Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara. The memorial features a 10-meter-high statue with nine metal sails, and a new public park.
One of the nine activists killed on the ship was a Turkish-American. Seven Israeli commandos were wounded in the confrontation.
Thousands of Turkish and other pro-Palestinian activists marched in downtown Istanbul late Monday to commemorate those killed in the raid and express anger toward Israel. The marchers also expressed support for plans by pro-Palestinian groups to send a new international flotilla to Gaza in late June.
The Turkish aid group, Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, or IHH, which operates the Mavi Marmara, says the ship will be part of a 15-vessel convoy that will carry more than 1,000 activists and humanitarian aid for Gaza.
Israel has vowed to continue enforcing its Gaza naval blockade to prevent weapons from reaching the territory.
Israeli authorities say any foreign aid for Gaza should be delivered through designated land crossings where shipments are screened for illicit items.
Israel controls several of those border terminals, while Egypt operates the Rafah crossing with Gaza. Egypt had imposed major restrictions on the passage of goods and people into Gaza in coordination with Israel until last week, when Egyptian authorities permanently eased those restrictions.
The pro-Palestinian activists said Monday that Egypt's opening of the Gaza border to regular traffic will not affect their new bid to break the naval blockade, which they say continues to prevent goods from reaching the territory.
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