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Türkiye to mobilize 12-nation aid flotilla for Gaza

Baku, TurkicWorld:

Nearly 14 years after nine activists headed for Gaza were killed in an Israeli raid in the Mediterranean, Türkiye is planning to dispatch another 'freedom flotilla' that will carry aid and activists from 12 nations as Israel continues pounding the Palestinian enclave, TurkicWorld reports citing Daily Sabah.

Türkiye is gearing up to send a flotilla of humanitarian aid, volunteers and activists from 12 countries, including England, Sweden and the United States, directly to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The "International Freedom Flotilla" is setting out to "bring down" Israel's blockade on Gaza with three ships named "Anadolu" (Anatolia), "Akdeniz" (Mediterranean) and "Vicdan" (Conscience), 14 years after an incident now known as the Gaza flotilla raid.

Bülent Yıldırım, the head of the independent Turkish aid agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), told reporters on Friday that the flotilla is likely to set sail for Gaza on April 15.

"We have completed purchasing three vessels so far for the flotilla. Since these ships will directly sail to Gaza, it was very difficult to obtain them," Yıldırım informed, pointing out the updated naval routes and rules in the Mediterranean after the 2010 "Mavi Marmara" incident.

2010 Israeli raid
In May 2010, the IHH sent an aid vessel called Mavi Marmara to Gaza along with five other civilian ships of the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" in an attempt to breach the Israeli blockade. The ship was intercepted by the Israeli military in a deadly offshore raid in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Nine pro-Palestinian activists on board the aid ship were killed during the raid and a 10th died in 2014 after years in a coma.

The raid touched off a diplomatic crisis between Türkiye and Israel. Turkish-Israeli relations have historically been rocky due to disputes over the Palestinian cause. The pair was in the process of normalizing their relations when the new round of conflict broke out. Ankara shelved normalization plans and vowed to pursue the rights of Palestinians after Oct. 7.

Flouting the International Court of Justice's provisional ruling, Israel continues its onslaught on the Gaza Strip, where at least 33,175 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and 75,886 injured since Oct. 7, 2023, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since the October cross-border attack by Hamas, which Tel Aviv says killed nearly 1,200 people.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

Hostilities have continued unabated, however, and aid deliveries remain woefully insufficient to address the humanitarian catastrophe.

'Struggle for freedom'
Türkiye, a virulent critic of Israel in the past six months of its relentless attacks, has so far sent its aid to Gaza through neighboring Egypt.

Currently, aid agencies say only about a fifth of needed supplies are entering Gaza as Israel persists with an air and ground offensive that has shattered the coastal enclave, pushing parts to the verge of famine. They say that deliveries by air drop or by sea directly onto Gaza's beaches are no substitute for increased supplies coming in by land via Israel or Egypt.

Israel says it puts no limit on the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza and blames problems in it reaching civilians within the enclave on U.N. agencies, which it says are inefficient. Aid groups blame Israel's blockade and red tape.

The IHH chairperson said the Anadolu vessel would carry humanitarian aid supplies while Vicdan would carry activists and media professionals from around the world, including Dr. Aleida Guevara, the daughter of Cuban leader Che Guevara, and Zwelivelile "Mandla" Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela.

"No one must remain silent in the face of the ongoing genocide in Gaza," Yıldırım stressed. "We must save Gaza and the world from this cruelty and these wars."

The Freedom Flotilla will call for a cease-fire in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and urge people worldwide to take to the city squares, Yıldırım said.

"Similarly, we will push the gates of Egypt and authorities to reach the port of Gaza," he added. "We will do whatever we can to stop this genocide."

He assured the flotilla would include "people of different religions and faiths."

"But we especially want press members to join our fleet and announce our struggle for freedom to the whole world."

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