A Turkish activist is at the helm of gathering around 1,000 boats in Turkey in a bid to disrupt Israeli marine activity as the Gaza conflict widens.
Amid the war in Gaza, declared by Iran-backed Hamas on October 7, the action echoes the deadly events of more than a decade ago when in 2010, the Israeli navy raided the Turkish Mavi Marmara, dubbed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, carrying pro-Palestinian protesters aiming to impose a blockade.
After violent resistance, 10 activists were killed and a further 10 military personnel were injured in the incident.
Volkan Okçu is organising the latest mass blockade telling local news site Haber7, that the boats will carry 4,500 people from 40 countries. Among the 1,000 vessels will be 313 boats filled with Russian activists, and 104 filled with Spanish activists, he said.
While it is not backed by the Turkish government, President Erdogan has recalled the Turkish ambassador in Israel and been forthright in his condemnation of the attacks on Gaza in response to the massacre in Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 mostly civilians. A further 240 were taken hostage to Gaza.
Turkey is also host to Hamas, one of the two bases outside Gaza used by political leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is currently in Doha meeting with Red Cross officials to negotiate a ceasefire in return for the release of some of the hostages, which include 40 children, the elderly and the sick.
Okçu told Haber7 that the flotilla is scheduled to leave Turkish coasts on Thursday, first stopping in Cyprus before going next to the Israeli port of Ashdod. The goal he says is to disrupt trade and goods heading to Israel for up to 10 days.
The Turkish activist said there will not be a repeat of the incident of 2010, the flotilla following international law and the vessels sailing under flags of the US, the UK, Luxembourg, Russian, Germany, Spain, Poland, and others.
The Mavi Marmara Freedom and Solidarity Association announced this week its intentions of delivering aid to Gaza. ”We are setting out again towards Gaza as a civil and independent movement in line with the decision we made with the International Freedom Flotilla, of which we are a member,” the association said on its website.
“Our actions against the naval blockade in Gaza adhere to the principles of nonviolence and non-violent resistance," it added.
As the Israeli onslaught of Gaza continues, hundreds of the militia’s commanders assassinated and large swathes of the strip destroyed, Hamas’s political leader in exile, Ismail Haniyeh, said that a truce with Israel was “close”.
In spite of the celebrations of victory by Hamas, the proscribed terror group is being pushed further underground as Israel’s land incursion deepens, unraveling the group’s thousands of miles long terror tunnel network.
It is understood that both sides would agree to release women and children, Hamas to release hostages, and Israel to release those held in its prisons, according to Hama’s Issat el Reshiq.
Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met Haniyeh in Qatar on Monday to "advance humanitarian issues" related to the conflict, the Geneva-based ICRC said in a statement. She also met separately with Qatari authorities.
The ICRC said it was not part of negotiations aimed at releasing the hostages, but as a neutral intermediary it was ready "to facilitate any future release that the parties agree to.” In Israel, families of the captives demand the organisation do more to access the hostages to prove signs of life and address critical health needs.
The flotilla comes as the war on Hamas widens further into the international arena. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, conducted its most brutal assault on Israel’s norther border since the start of the war on Monday. Iran’s largest and most powerful terror proxy employed more developed destructive weapons, in spite of Iran’s ongoing official denials of its involvement in the conflict. Top regime officials however have lauded the Hamas attacks and voice support for other groups joining the efforts of “resistance” against Israel.
On Sunday, Iran’s proxy the Houthis in Yemen, hijacked a Japanese-operated cargo ship in the Red Sea. The car carrier, Galaxy Leader, was taken to a Yemeni port, the proxy group believing it was owned by an Israeli businessman. On Monday, Japanese officials announced they were in direct talks with the Houthis after confirming the vessel was operated instead by Tokyo-based firm Nippon Yusen.