Thousands of pro-Palestinian activists gathered at a port in Istanbul to welcome back a ship that was the scene of bloodshed during an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.
The ship, Mavi Marmara, returned to Istanbul Sunday after undergoing repairs at a Mediterranean port.
The crowds waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanted "Allah is great!" at Istanbul's Sarayburu port. Some activists boarded boats to greet the ship as it arrived.
Religious Islamic chants were heard, some of them identifying with Hamas. One of the event organizers spoke out and said: "We're returning the Marmara without nine shahids (martyrs)".
Marmara arrives in Istanbul (Photo: Reuters)
He added: "I ask God to return Jerusalem to us and fight for the shahids." He also asked that God "take revenge on the killers" and called for "death to Israel," saying they will fight till their last breath until they take over Jerusalem.
The artist and former Israeli Dror Feiler, who participated in the Gaza-bound flotilla, also spoke. "I come from Sweden but I was born in Israel," he began. "What the Israeli government is doing isn't only against Palestinians, but against the Jews as well. We stand here together, Christians, Muslims, Jews and those who don't believe – because we're all supporting human rights and enforcing the international law. We believe every person has rights, regardless of origin or faith."
Waving Palestinian flags at Istanbul port (Photo: Reuters)
Feiler expressed his support of the flotilla to Gaza and called to put the Israeli leadership on trial. He said that "when the politicians talk about human rights and the importance of international law but do nothing, it's our mission to make them do so for peace and freedom in Gaza, just like the nine shahids that died."
Meanwhile, another flotilla is on its way to the Gaza Strip, which is currently under a partial Israeli blockade. The Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy ‘Asia 1′ reached Lebanon on Saturday.
According to reports aired on the Hezbollah network Al-Manar, the group visited Sidon. From there they continued on to Syria and Iran and are later expected to fly to Egypt and transfer the aid to Gaza from there.
The convoy began its journey on December 1 in India and on December 7 it passed through Pakistan and Iran. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported that during their visit to Iran they received a warm official welcome from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials.
It is estimated that the convoy will be joined by Iranian parliament members. So far there are about 200 participants in the convoy, including representatives from Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, eight representatives from different organizations in Indonesia, and Muslim activists from Jordan.
Nine activists from Turkey were killed in the Mavi Marmara raid. Israel insists its troops acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists on board the vessel.
Turkey is demanding an apology and compensation from Israel.
Aviel Magnezi contributed to the report
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