Turks march in protest against Israeli ship raid
Thousands of people angered by an Israeli raid on an aid ship that killed nine pro-Palestinian activists marched through Istanbul on Saturday, demanding Turkey cut economic ties with the Jewish state.
"Damn Israel," "Murderer Israel," protesters shouted. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Revenge."
On Monday, Israeli commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara, part of a six-vessel convoy carrying mostly Turkish, pro-Palestinian activists trying to break a four-year-old Israeli blockade on Gaza. The raid quickly turned violent.
Besides the nine Turkish men who were killed, dozens of people were wounded. The ship was also carrying activists from Britain, Germany, Malaysia, Belgium, Ireland and elsewhere.
On Saturday, the Israeli navy boarded without incident another aid ship trying to reach Gaza, the Rachel Corrie. Israeli police said the 19 people on board would be deported within hours.
"Now the Israelis have seized two more ships with captives. This is why I condemn Israel," said marcher Filiz Calislar. "The Turkish people have gathered here to protest the atrocities by Israel."
Protesters waved Turkish and Palestinian flags and carried signs with the photographs of the dead activists.
They demanded a boycott of Israeli products and called on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government to impose sanctions on the Jewish state. The rally was organized by the Islamist Saadet Party.
"What we experienced on the Mavi Marmara is what Palestinian women and children live through every day," said Bulent Yildirim, head of the Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), the Istanbul-based group that organized the flotilla.
The last five Turkish activists wounded during the raid returned to Turkey on board Israeli air ambulances late on Friday, said Metin Dogan, chief physician at Ataturk Hospital in the capital Ankara. They had been unable to travel sooner because of the seriousness of their medical condition.
Of the 24 people being treated in Ankara, one is Irish, and the rest are Turkish, Dogan also said.
"Seven of the patients are in critical condition, but their situation has improved since they arrived," he said.
A prosecutor took statements from those in hospital who were well enough to speak, the broadcaster CNN Turk said on its website. Turkish officials are considering legal action against Israel.
[Source: By Sasha Kavic, Reuters, Istambul, 05Jun10]
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