Congressmen Urge Turkey to Stop Gaza Flotilla

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Thirty-six U.S. congressmen signed a letter urging Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop this year's attempt to breach the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The letter's signatories asked Erdogan 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," the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

The Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish "humanitarian" organization are co-organizing the flotilla again this year.

Last year, the IHH - with ties to Islamic terror groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas - recruited about 40 pro-Palestinian activists to travel aboard the Turkish-owned flagship, Mavi Marmara.

The activists assaulted Israeli naval commandos attempting to board the ship to redirect it to the Ashdod port. 

"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 letter stated.

The Israeli government has the right and responsibility to protect its people and prevent weapon smuggling into Gaza, the signatories wrote.

"If flotilla organizers carry out their confrontational plans, the Israelis will have little choice but to board the vessels and search for weapons," they said.

To avoid the same violent scenario that developed last May, the congressmen urged Erdogan to work through Israeli officials to transport "legitimate humanitarian aid" to Gaza residents.

"By finding a constructive solution as an alternative to another flotilla, you have a unique opportunity to potentially save lives and be a force for stability at a particularly volatile time," the congressmen wrote.

Organizers announced a two-week postponement of the flotilla, which had planned to sail on the anniversary of last year's confrontation, until after Turkey's parliamentary elections on June 12.

Erdogan reportedly didn't want to risk losing votes from those who oppose the blockade-busting flotillas.

In an interview aired in the U.S. on Wednesday night, Erdogan said Hamas is a political party, not a terror organization, and the newly formed Palestinian unity government would move the peace process forward.

Haaretz contributed to this report.

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