Turkish Flotilla to Set Sail for Gaza

Latest Developments

Israel is bracing for potential maritime trade disruptions due to imminent seaborne aid deliveries to Gaza from Turkey by Turkish charities and pro-Palestinian activist groups. The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IIH) — a pro-Hamas Turkish charity organization outlawed by Israel — and the Mavi Marmara Association have organized the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) alongside pro-Palestinian organizations and activists from 30 countries. The coalition seeks to “break the siege of Gaza.”

IHH recently acquired three ships for this mission and renamed them Anadolu, The Conscience, and Akdeniz. Despite recent Israeli efforts to increase seaborne aid to Gaza, these ships will carry 5,500 tons of humanitarian aid and “hundreds of international human rights observers to challenge the ongoing illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip,” the FFC said on April 14. The FFC shipment would be less than the amount of aid Israel delivered on April 17 alone, according to the most recent statistics from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories.

The coalition’s ships are expected to sail around April 21, but Israeli officials hope the flotilla will be delayed. In 2010, the IHH sent a flotilla of six ships to Gaza, leading to a lethal confrontation at sea with Israeli forces on the ship Mavi Marmara.

Expert Analysis

“Any foreign company that owns, operates, or insures these vessels needs to think very carefully about the legal and financial risk involved here if Treasury or Congress designates IHH or otherwise finds evidence of material support for terrorism.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Turkey’s insistence on launching the flotilla confirms its adversarial and destabilizing intentions. If it were genuinely interested in the delivery of aid to Gaza, it would utilize established channels of delivery used by aid organizations. Its intention is to provoke a military confrontation with Israel, which would ultimately disrupt existing aid deliveries. Nothing but malice and ill will motivate the launching of this flotilla, which also has deep ties to known and sanctioned terrorist entities such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.” —Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

The 2010 Mavi Marmara Clashes Inform Israeli Security Concerns

Israel-Turkey relations deteriorated in 2010 following an armed skirmish aboard the largest ship in the flotilla organized by IHH — the Turkish-owned vessel known as the Mavi Marmara. Reportedly, Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara to search for military aid and opened fire when some Turkish activists onboard attacked them with clubs, knives, and a gun. Ten Turks died from the exchange. While the incident sparked international outrage, the 2011 Palmer Report issued by the United Nations found Israel’s naval blockade was a legitimate form of self-defense. In 2016, Turkey agreed to end legal action against the Israeli officers involved in the incident.

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