Israel-Gaza conflict: Turkish campaign group to challenge Gaza blockade by sending flotilla full of aid for Palestinians

Four years after another flotilla launched by same group met with deadly raid by Israeli commandos

A pro-Palestinian campaign group in Turkey is to send aid on ships bound for Gaza, four years after its last attempt to break the Israeli blockade ended in a bloody raid and the deaths of 10 activists.

In a statement issued after a meeting in Istanbul at the weekend, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation group said it had formed a multi-national coalition designed to "challenge the Israeli blockade".

The fighting in Gaza has abated in the last 24 hours as both sides agreed to a new three-day ceasefire deal. The conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups has now lasted more than a month and led to the deaths of almost 2,000 people.

A spokesperson for IHH said pro-Palestinian activists from 12 different countries had come together to form the "Freedom Flotilla Coalition", which will launch a convoy "in the shadow of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza".

"The Freedom Flotilla Coalition affirmed that, as most governments are complicit, the responsibility falls on civil society to challenge the Israeli blockade on Gaza," the group said. A further news conference has been scheduled for Tuesday.

When the IHH last tried to break the Gaza blockade with a flotilla in May 2010, nine Turkish nationals died in international waters when Israeli commandos boarded their flagship vessel, the Mavi Marmara.

A 10th Turkish activist died later that month from wounds suffered in the raid, which was catastrophic for diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel, once close Middle East allies.

The Gaza blockade has been in place since shortly after Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006. Israel says the measures are designed to stop arms and equipment that could be used to make rockets from reaching Hamas and other militant groups.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who on Sunday was elected president, has been among the most vocal critics of Israel's conflict with Hamas across the Gaza Strip.

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