Israel-Beginning of the End?

Turkey
will “never forgive” Israel

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal reports from
Istanbul after being released by Israel following convoy raid

The Turkish president has said that Israel’s
military raid on civilian aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip has caused
“irreparable” damage to his country’s relations with Israel, and will
“never” be forgiven.

“From now on, Turkish-Israeli ties will never be the same. This
incident has left an irreparable and deep scar,” Abdullah Gul said in a
televised speech on Thursday, as thousands gathered in the streets of
Istanbul to pay their respects to the humanitarian activists killed
during the raid.



The raid “is not an issue that can be
forgotten… or be covered up… Turkey will never forgive this attack,”
he said. 

Nine people – eight Turks and a US national of Turkish origin- were
killed in Monday’s pre-dawn raid on the Mavi Mamara, which was
carrying aid to Gaza in a bid to break Israel’s strangling blockade of
the territory.

As their funerals got underway on Thursday,
thousands poured onto the streets around the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul,
chanting slogans condemning Israel and waving Turkish and Palestinian
flags.

IN DEPTH

Turkish media estimated the size of the crowd as between 15,000 and
20,000 people, a reflection of the depth of anger in Turkey over the
Israeli assault on the ships.

Several imams directed the mourners in prayer as eight of the
coffins, draped in Turkish and Palestinian flags, were laid on marble
stands for people to pay their respects.

Shot from above

The demonstration came as Turkish forensic experts confirmed that the
nine activists had been shot dead.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, who reported from the ship during the
raid, confirmed that live ammunition had been used by Israeli commandos
as they stormed the ship.

He said that he witnessed some of the killings, and confirmed that at
least “one person was shot through the top of the head from [the
helicopter] above.”

Activists
killed

  Turkish victims
  Ibrahim Bilgen
  Ali Haydar Bengi
  Cevdet Kiliçlar
  Çetin Topçuoglu
  Necdet Yildirim
  Fahri Yaldiz
  Cengiz Songür
  Cengiz Akyüz
  US victim
  Furkan Dogan

Elshayyal was on the top deck when the ship was attacked and said
that within a few minutes of seeing the Israeli helicopters, there were
shots being fired from above.

“The first shots [coming from Israeli boats at sea] were tear gas,
sound grenades and rubber coated steel bullets,” said Eshayyal.

“Live shots came five minutes after that. There was definitely live
fire from the air and from the sea as well.”

He confirmed that some passengers took apart some of the ship’s
railings to defend themselves as they saw the Israeli soldiers
approaching.

“After the shooting and the first deaths, people put up white flags
and signs in English and Hebrew,” he said.

“An Israeli [on the ship] asked the soldiers to take away the
injured, but they did not and the injured died on the ship.”

Injured flown home

Earlier on Thursday, three air ambulances landed at a military base
in Ankara, the Turkish capital, carrying wounded activists who were
transferred from Israeli custody to hospitals in the city.

Hundreds of supporters, including Bulent Arinc, Turkey’s deputy prime
minister, and several other Turkish politicians, gathered at the
airport in Istanbul to welcome the returning activists.

“They faced barbarism and oppression but returned with pride,” Arinc
told hundreds of jubilant relatives and supporters outside the airport,
chanting “God is Great!”

Almost all of the detained passengers on board the flotilla have
now been released.

Seven activists wounded in Monday’s clashes were still being treated
in an Israeli hospital, the Israeli foreign ministry said.

Three others – an Irishman and two women from Australia and Italy –
remained in Israel “for technical reasons”, the ministry said.

But Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem, said
that four Palestinian-Israelis also remain in prison.

Our correspondent said that Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic
Movement in Israel, was one of those still being held.

Israel defiant

Israel has remained defiant about the raid, rejecting calls for a
international investigation into the incident, and warning it is ready
to intercept another aid ship, the Rachel Corrie, that is due
to head for Gaza next week.

IN DEPTH

 

  Blog: Israel defending the indefensible
  Twitter: Sherine Tadros
  Pictures: Protests around the world
  Previous
activists killed by Israel
  Focus: On board the Freedom Flotilla
  Focus: Gaza’s
real humanitarian crisis
  Video: Israel’s Gaza PR offensive
  Programmes: Born in Gaza

Accusing international critics of “hypocrisy,” Binyamin Netanyahu,
the Israeli prime minister, defended the seizure of the aid ships on
Wednesday.

“This was not the Love Boat,” he said in a televised address to the
nation, referring to the vessel boarded by commandos. “It was a hate
boat.”

“These weren’t pacifists, these weren’t peace activists, they were
violent supporters of terrorism.”

Netanyahu said the aim of the flotilla was to break the blockade of
Gaza, not to bring aid.

He said that if the blockade ended, ships would bring in thousands of
missiles from Iran to be aimed at Israel and beyond, creating what he
said would be an Iranian port on the Mediterranean.

“The same countries that are criticising us today should know that
they would be targeted tomorrow,” Netanyahu said.

However, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said the flotilla
tragedy only highlights the serious underlying problem – namely, the
siege imposed on the Gaza.

He said that the siege was “counter-productive, unsustainable and
wrong”.

“It punishes innocent civilians,” he said, calling for the siege to
be lifted immediately.

 Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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