The Turkish organization behind last year's deadly flotilla raid in the Mediterranean Sea is offering conflicting statements whether it will participate in the upcoming flotilla this month.
"We are reconsidering our plans. We cannot close our eyes to the developments on our doorstep," IHH deputy head and spokesperson Hüseyin Oruç told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday.
"Our goal is not to set sail to Gaza. We think we can serve the purpose by sending a ship or canceling it," Oruç said. A decision will be made by the end of the week, and flotilla organizers will meet in Athens this weekend, he added.
Oruç said IHH is "reconsidering" its plans given the Syrian refugee issue in Turkey. More than 8,000 Syrians fled to Turkey this month seeking sanctuary from President Bashar al-Assad's brutal regime, and the country has vowed to help them.
Yet on Wednesday, IHH officials told the World Bulletin "the new flotilla definitely will set sail to Gaza as scheduled. Yet we are talking [sic] to a plan Mavi Marmara ship will start journey a bit later and join the main flotilla off Gaza. It will be clear in today's or tomorrow's meeting. Definitely Mavi Marmara ship will set sail to Gaza as other ships of the new flotilla."
Oruç's statement comes in sharp contrast to recent defiant remarks from IHH.
"We are now coming with our second flotilla," IHH head Bulent Yildirim told a May 30 demonstration in Istanbul commemorating the death of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara ship a year earlier. "We are not alone. We are coming with our nine martyrs this time. A year ago 600 people applied to join us and after our blood was shed in the waters of the Mediterranean this number has gone over 500,000."
IHH's withdrawal won't stop the flotilla, organizers say. "The IHH have their own reasons, internal reasons. It won't stop us from going," Dror Feiler, Free Gaza Movement leader in Sweden said on Wednesday. Participants say they want to break the Israeli embargo on Hamas even though Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing, allowing goods to flow freely.
Ten ships are scheduled to partake in the flotilla, with approximately 300 activists from dozens of countries. The ships are planning to meet in the Eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus at the end of the month and then sail to Gaza.
There is no indication on IHH's website that plans for the flotilla are off. Instead, a section of the website is dedicated to articles and banners promoting the upcoming venture.