Protesters wave flags at a rally at the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, May 30, 2011. Some 30,000 Turks staged a protest against Israel on Istanbul's main street Monday night on the anniversary of the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Some 30,000 Turks staged a protest against Israel on Istanbul's main street Monday night on the anniversary of the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Holding candles, waving Palestinian flag and flags of Turkey and Iran, and shouting slogans such as "wait Palestinians, Mavi Marmara ship is coming" and "blockade is crime against humanitarian," the protesters marched on the Istiklal street, the most important and prosperous business street in Istanbul, and gathered in the Taksim square.
The event was organized by the Turkish nongovernmental organization the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), to commemorate the eight Turks and one Turkish-American killed onboard the Mavi Marmara, a ship of the IHH's first aid flotilla, in a raid by the Israeli commandos on May 31, 2010.
The IHH claimed that it has planned a second Gaza-bound flotilla at the end of June despite the Israeli warning and the pressure from the U.S. government.
IHH chairman Bulent Yildirim said the new flotilla, which would be composed of 15 ships and about 1,500 activists from more than 100 countries, was organized by 22 activist groups from around the world to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"We would like to remind Israel to come to its senses. You must allow this flotilla," Yildirim said, "if you raid again, we will stay in the sea for days and become the current issue in the world. "
Yildirim called on Israel, which he said became isolated after the May 31 raid, to completely lift the blockade on Gaza.
The Turkish-Israeli relations have been at rock bottom since the raid. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and demanded an official apology and compensation from Israel in response to the attack which was condemned by many countries, while Israel refused to make an apology or consider compensation, saying it acted in self-defense.
The United States has warned Turkey that sending another flotilla to the Gaza Strip would not be helpful.
Yildirim criticized the U.S. government's support for Israel, which he said was isolating itself internationally due to its treatment of the Palestinians.