The Turkish-based organization behind the deadly confrontation with Israel in the Mediterranean Sea last spring pledges to have its second Freedom Flotilla reach the Gaza strip by the end of May, according to an article from a Hamas-affiliated website.
Muhammad Kaya, head of IHH's Gaza branch confirmed the plan during a meeting with Hamas minister of transport and communications Osama Al-Aisawi. Kaya added that the flotilla of ships would come from various European countries.
Kaya, who works with Hamas on behalf of IHH, assisted with the logistics of last year's deadly flotilla. In December, Kaya said that IHH would continue to provide financial and moral support to Palestinians, including through the group's willingness to "sacrifice their lives and shed their blood." The Investigative Project on Terrorism has documented IHH's extensive ties to Hamas here.
An IHH delegate was part of a meeting for the second flotilla, held in Madrid, Spain from Feb. 4-6. The meeting drew delegates from Canada, Scotland, Algeria, Spain, France, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Last year's flotilla raid increased tensions between Israel and Turkey. Nine passengers on the ship Mavi Marmara died in a confrontation with Israeli troops last May. Tapes show the passengers attacked the troops as they rappelled onto the ship's deck.
Hostilities between the two countries flared last month following Israel's release of the Turkel Commission report on the Mavi Marmara incident. The report found that the Israeli blockade on Gaza is lawful according to international law, and that Israeli commandos acted in self defense when they boarded the Mavi Marmara. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the report's findings, as did the terrorist group Hamas. "It is an attempt to display [Israel's] image as civilized and democratic and save the occupation government from its predicament stemming from its involvement in terrorist acts," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum stated.
On Feb. 11, Turkeyreleased the final results of its own investigation into the Mavi Marmara incident, submitted to the Panel of Inquiry set up by the UN Secretary-General. In addition to slamming the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip as a violation of international law, the report concluded that the "Israeli attack" caused passengers to react in "self-defense." However, video evidence, first hand testimony and equipment found on the ship indicate that the attack was orchestrated in advance in attempt to create a violent confrontation with Israel. In fact, seven of the nine passengers on the Mavi Marmara expressed their desire to die as martyrs in the mission.
On Tuesday, Turkey insisted that Israel issue an apology for the killing of the nine activists on the Mavi Marmara. "We expect that the UN investigation will be balanced, and that Israel and Turkey will get out of it what we are seeking. An apology and compensation, however, constitute a red line for us," a Turkish diplomat told journalists.