Marking the second anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turkish activists were killed in a clash with Israeli commandos aboard the ship, tens of thousands of Turks attended a demonstration dubbed "marching for the liberation of Palestine" in Istanbul.
In May 2010, Israeli naval commandos raided a flotilla of ships bound for blockaded Gaza. When they boarded the Mavi Marmara, the commandos faced violent resistance from members of IHH, a pro-Palestinian Turkish humanitarian relief organization. In the ensuing struggle, nine Turkish citizens were killed and dozens were wounded.
At the march, held at Taksim Square on Thursday, many people held posters denouncing Israel, with one saying "Israel threatens world peace." Some posters denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well, citing the massacre by Syrian forces of more than 100 people, including many children, in Houla on May 25.
Iranian television covered the events in Turkey and events in Gaza marking the day as well. Palestinians in Gaza held a memorial service for the "heroes who tried to breach the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza."
Meanwhile, an IHH representative announced this week that "the Marmara ship underwent repairs and is ready to set sail again — to Gaza." IHH leaders promised that the next mission featuring the Mavi Marmara would be more successful than the previous one. This time, they said, the ship would arrive at its destination. According to the plan, the next flotilla will reportedly set sail from Sweden.
Thursday's event in Turkey was attended by representatives of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, an independent political organization that coordinates the political actions of various Israeli-Arab bodies.
A member of the committee told Israel Hayom that "it was important for us to be here and express our support for the Turkish people and the families of the victims. This was a reciprocation of their support for the Palestinian people. We told our Turkish hosts that the killing of the citizens aboard the Marmara caused deep shock and much pain among Israeli Arabs."
Additional memorial events were scheduled to take place in Turkey over the weekend, with some to be held aboard the Marmara itself, which is currently docked at a port in Istanbul.
IHH head Bulent Yildirim vowed that his organization would preserve the memories of the victims, whose portraits were displayed throughout Istanbul on Thursday. IHH activists boarded the Marmara Thursday morning and recited memorial prayers together with members of the victims' families.
Turkish media highlighted Defense Minister Ehud Barak's support for the naval commandos and senior officers who took part in the raid on the ship and the Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported extensively about the rift that has developed between Turkey and Israel since the incident in 2010.