More than six months after the flotilla incident on May 31, the Mavi Marmara is returning.
According to a report last week on the Palestine Monitor website, the Turkish ship will be returning to Istanbul on the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead on December 26. A ceremony organized by the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) will be held that day and politicians, activists and survivors will gather to mourn the losses on the flotilla and in Gaza.
The Mavi Marmara was one of the ships that took part in the Gaza flotilla, also organized by IHH, which attempted to break the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip while claiming to be carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.
The IDF had requested that the ships dock at the Ashdod Port and that their cargo be inspected, but the participants refused and instead chose to continue to sail towards Gaza. As IDF soldiers boarded the Marmara, they were attacked by the so-called “peace activists” aboard who were wielding metal clubs. The soldiers were under orders not to shoot, but the “open fire” command was given after stun grenades failed to disperse the attackers. Nine people were killed, most of them from Turkey.
It was later confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that there had been no humanitarian aid aboard the Mavi Marmara. Israel subsequently renovated the ship and returned it to Turkey.
The ceremony on December 26 in Istanbul will mark the first day of Operation Cast Lead, and the IHH expect many thousands to attend, according to Palestine Monitor. “With this opportunity, the brutal attacks and killings of Israel on the Flotilla as well as Gaza will be once again highlighted and the world will be called out to end the attacks and the siege imposed on Gaza”, said IHH board member Huseyin Oruc.
Furthermore, the IHH has also announced that a new flotilla to Gaza will be formed, once again starring the Mavi Marmara. The new flotilla will sail to Gaza on the same date as the first one, May 31, 2011.
The IHH have published a list of demands from Israel, including a demand to lift “the illegal siege” on Gaza by the time the Marmara and accompanying ships to arrive there next May. The IHH are also calling for Israel to “accept, apologize and account for crimes of murder, torture, theft and suppression, as well as paying substantial compensation to the victims.”