Turkey challenges Israel by dispatching ship, supporters to Gaza

10:58, May 23, 2010      

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Turkey challenged Israel here on Saturday by dispatching a special ship with 500 supporters and 20 million U.S. dollars worth of humanitarian goods to Gaza.

About 5,000 supporters and activists showed up at the ceremony in solidarity with the people in Gaza and sent off the ship that will join a convey to bring supplies to Palestinians behind the Gaza blockade.

The "Mavi Marmara" (Blue Marmara) left Istanbul for Antalya after a send-off ceremony at the Sarayburnu district in the historic peninsula.

The Mavi Marmara will join two other Turkish ships in Antalya, before departing for Gaza on May 25. The ships are expected to get to Gaza late this month.

They will meet up with two British, one Greek, one Irish, one Algerian and one Kuwaiti ship in international waters.

The 9 ships are expected to sail to Gaza within 24 hours after meeting up if they are not blocked by Israel, which has imposed an embargo on Gaza since 2006.

The ships' cargo includes medicine, medical supplies, cement, iron, prefabricated homes, and children's games making a total of 10,000 tons of humanitarian goods.

The campaign is supported by nearly 50 countries and thousands of NGOs and activists, and is organized by international organizations such as the "IHH Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief" and "Free Gaza."

A flotilla of ships funded by Turkey will approach Gaza in late May, in an attempt to challenge Israeli control at sea - or, as organizers put it, "break Israel's illegal blockade on Gaza."

Bulent Yildirim, President of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief, said at a press conference last month, that their 15-day mission will encounter obstacles from Israeli side.

Yildirim said that their mission is supported not only by the government but also by all political parties and organizations in the country.

While residents of Gaza have access to the sea, the Israeli Navy prevents travel by sea between Gaza and surrounding countries, in an attempt to prevent weapons smuggling.

Gaza terrorists have previously used incoming ships to smuggle arms, and have used the sea to transport bombs to the coast of southern Israel.

Ties between Israel and Turkey, once friendly, have been strained since early 2009, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior leaders harshly condemned Israel for its counter-terrorism operations in Gaza.

Erdogan publicly snubbed President Shimon Peres, Turkey later held a joint military exercise with Syria, and cancelled Israel's participation in a scheduled military exercise.

Source:Xinhua

(Editor:黄蓓蓓)

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