Israeli naval commandos brutally attacked an international aid convoy intending to bring humanitarian supplies to the long-besieged Gaza city and killed more than a dozen civilians while the convoy was sailing on international waters.
Early Monday morning, as it has threatened several times as the aid flotilla set sail for Gaza, Israel intercepted the convoy of vessels carrying hundreds of activists from around the world and some 10,000 tones of humanitarian aid, possibly causing an irreversible damage to Turkish-Israeli relations, foreign ministry said in a statement released a few hours after the attack.
International community has earlier warned Israel not to engage in an offensive on civilian vessels full of peaceful activists whose aim is to break the three-year-old economic blockade on Gaza which has severely plagued its people.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Israeli consulate in İstanbul to show reaction against the violent intervention. Thousands of Gazans who were expecting a helping hand from committed civilians but later learned of the attack also gathered at the port of Gaza, carrying Palestinian flags and banners read “End to Israeli persecution.”
“We were not expecting such an operation in international waters,” Ömer Faruk Korkmaz, an official of the Humanitarian Aid Association (İHH) that led the aid shipment in Turkey said. “Israel has been caught red-handed and the international community will not forgive it.”
Korkmaz said the ship was being escorted to Haifa.
“I was expecting an intervention,” said Murat Mercan, Turkish parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman. “I was not expecting bloodshed, the use of arms and bullets.”
“Israel is engaged in activity that will extremely hurt its image,” he said.
Turkey summoned the Israeli ambassador to the foreign ministry to discuss the incident.
“Israel has clearly indicated once again that it snubs human life and peaceful initiatives by targeting innocent civilians. We severely condemn Israel’s inhumane practices. The sorrowful incident that occurred in international waters and constitute a grave violation of international law may lead to irreversible consequences for our relations,” read the foreign ministry’s statement, adding that Israel will have to stand the consequences of its intervention.
Turkish ministers and high-level officials convened at the Prime Ministry in Ankara following the Israeli offensive. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınc, Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, Prime Ministry Undersecretary Efkan Ala, General Staff Operations Commander Gen. Mehmet Eröz, Naval Forces Vice Commander Adm. Nusret Güner, and bureaucrats are participating in the meeting.