Turkey Won't Stop Blockade-Busting Flotilla Plan

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JERUSALEM, Israel - One year ago today, Israeli naval commandos boarded the Turkish-owned flagship, Mavi Marmara, after its captain refused to sail to the Ashdod port instead of the Gaza Strip.

As the commandos touched down on deck, pro-Palestinian activists attacked them with knives, stun grenades, chains and metal pipes.

When it became apparent their lives were in danger, the soldiers received permission to defend themselves with more than the paintball guns they had intended to use if necessary. Nine activists were killed in the ensuing fight.

The flotilla's organizers -- the Free Gaza Movement and the IHH, a Turkish NGO, have been planning an even larger event this year -- reportedly with up to 15 vessels. Israeli efforts to resolve the planned confrontation through diplomacy fell on deaf ears.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government would not interfere with the flotilla's plan to breech Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"No democratic country can think that they have full control over these NGOs [non-governmental organizations]," Davutoglu told Reuters, referring to the "humanitarian" organization with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanhwile, the flotilla's organizers postponed its departure until after Turkey's legislative elections in mid-June. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly hopes his party will win a parliamentary majority, allowing it -- among other things -- to draft a new constitution.

In a televised interview Thursday evening, Davutoglu warned Israel not to repeat the same "mistake" it made with last year's flotilla.

"We think Israel has enough experience not to repeat such a mistake again," the foreign minister said. He also advised Israel to accept the Hamas-Fatah government and lift the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also asked governments of Mediterranean countries to "discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict."

In his letter, Ban said "assistance and goods destined to Gaza should be channeled through legitimate crossings and established channels."

In mid-May, a group of U.S. congressmen urged Erdogan to intervene in the attempt to "provoke a confrontation with Israel."

"We write today to express our serious concern over reports that the so-called Free Gaza Movement and the IHH are planning to send another flotilla to Gaza in the coming weeks to provoke a confrontation with Israel," the congressmen stated in the letter.

"As members of the United States House of Representatives we ask you to help discourage these efforts and work with the Israeli government in a productive way as it continues to allow legitimate aid, but not weapons, to enter Gaza.

"If flotilla organizers carry out their confrontational plans, the Israelis will have little choice but to board the vessels and search for weapons. We fear violence could erupt just as it did last year," the congressmen wrote.

Though a diplomatic solution would have been preferable, the Israeli Navy has been preparing for the event, applying lessons learned from last year's confrontation aboard the Turkish flagship, Mavi Marmara.

"The IDF learned the lessons of the Mamara," Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. "The IDF will act to prevent any attempt to break the naval blockade," he said.

"The flotilla's organizers want to provoke us, not to provide aid to Gaza," Gantz said. "There is no humanitarian problem. Hundreds of trucks of food and supplies enter Gaza every day," he said.

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Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News Internet Producer - Jerusalem

From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.