Thousands of Muslim Turks marched this past weekend to observe the anniversary of the Israeli raid of a Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla in 2010, chanting, “Muslims, don’t sleep, protect your brothers!” Commemorating the event, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed longing for Muslims “to hoist the Islamic flag over Jerusalem again.”
The protesters flooded Istanbul this weekend to memorialize ten people killed in an Israeli attack on six Gaza-bound ships in 2010. Protests this Sunday began with prayers in a mosque and then continued with a bike tour of the European and Palestinian neighborhoods of Istanbul. Protesters waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and banners.
Throughout the day, protesters also held Muslim prayers in front of the Israeli ambassador’s house in the capital, Ankara.
Later in the evening, the mass of protesters reached the graveyard where the dead activists are buried. Reporters on the scene heard chants like, “Long live the Palestinian resistance!” and “Muslims, don’t sleep, protect your brothers!”
Turkish politicians are playing to the public’s anti-Israel sentiments to help their chances in upcoming parliamentary elections.
“Conquest is Mecca, conquest is Saladin, it’s to hoist the Islamic flag over Jerusalem again; conquest is the heritage of Mehmed II and conquest means forcing Turkey back on its feet,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.
Palestinians in Gaza also commemorated the flotilla raid, calling the dead activists “martyrs.” They also called for putting Israel on trial for “war crimes” allegedly committed in the raid.
The flotilla, which set sail from Turkey on May 30, 2010, was organized by a group called the Free Gaza Movement, which the Israeli government claims is associated with the Islamic terror organization Hamas.
Israeli commandos landed on one of the vessels in the small fleet and reportedly told activists to turn back to Turkey. Violence broke out, and five activists were killed.
The Free Gaza Movement claims the Israeli commandos initiated the violence, but a UN report stated the Israeli soldiers faced “significant, organized, and violent resistance” and that the commandos “used force for their own protection.”
Typically, the Israeli Defense Force stops Gaza-bound flotillas to ensure they are not carrying materials which could help Hamas plan and execute terror attacks.
Earlier this month, a flotilla set sail from Sweden for Gaza, carrying solar panels and medical equipment.
Israel said that sending humanitarian aid via flotilla is an “unnecessary provocation” and that it would be simpler to send the aid through Israel so it can be inspected by the IDF to ensure none of it could be used in terrorist activities.