Tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul Thursday for prayers for activists killed in Israel's raid on aid ships bound for Gaza, condemning the Jewish state and shouting support for Hamas.
"Damn Israel! Israel is the angel of death!" chanted the crowd which overflowed the sprawling courtyard of the Fatih Mosque, waving Turkish and Palestinian flags.
The NTV news channel put the number of the mourners at between 15,000 and 20,000.
"We are all soldiers of Hamas," the crowd shouted.
Nine people - eight Turks and a US national of Turkish origin - were killed in Monday's pre-dawn raid by Israeli forces on the Turkish ferry, Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the aid flotilla aiming to break the Gaza blockade.
"May your martyrdom be blessed," read a huge banner in the colors of the Palestinian flag, hung on the wall surrounding the mosque courtyard.
Thousands attend funeral (Photo: AFP)
The coffins of eight of the activists were laid on marble stands, covered with both Turkish and Palestinian flags, as several imams guided the mourners in the prayers.
One of the dead was to be buried in Istanbul later Thursday while the rest would be flown to their hometowns. There will be a separate ceremony Friday for the last dead activist at another Istanbul mosque.
'Ties will never be the same'
Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, the mayor of Istanbul and the Iranian general-consul were among those who attended the ceremony, an AFP photographer said.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Thursday that the Israeli raid had delivered a heavy blow to bilateral ties and said his country would never forgive its estranged regional ally.
"From now on, Turkish-Israeli ties will never be the same. This incident has left an irreparable and deep scar" on relations, he said in televised remarks.
The raid "is not an issue that can be forgotten... or be covered up... Turkey will never forgive this attack," he added.
Ankara has already recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv and scrapped joint military exercises with Israel in an angry response to the raid.