At Gaza flotilla funeral in Turkey, rising anger and eyewitness accounts
Turkish leaders built on earlier condemnations of Israel's attack on the Gaza flotilla, while mourners offered eyewitness accounts that contradicted Israel's version of events.
Turkish leaders built on their earlier condemnations, asserting that Israel's attack on a Turkish ship had not only caused irreparable damage to the allies' relationship but had exposed the Jewish state "once again" as a perpetrator of crimes against humanity.
Mourners added their weight to that uncompromising line and shared eyewitness accounts that contradict Israel's version of what Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this week called a "bloody massacre." The predawn raid killed nine Turks, including one US-born teenager of Turkish descent.
“We didn’t expect any such attack,” said Yavuz Cakir, who works with the company that handles the Mavi Marmara – the largest vessel of the six-ship flotilla taken over by the Israeli military to prevent passage to Gaza.
“The Turkish government was also surprised. The world was also surprised,” added Mr. Cakir, who attended the funeral. “The Jewish people and Jewish government shoot easily, and do not respect anyone.”
That sentiment was echoed by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who said past warm relations with Israel “will never be the same again,” and that “Israel has made one of the biggest mistakes of its history.”
“Turkey will never forgive this kind of attack in international waters,” Mr. Gul said on Thursday. “The entire world has risen up, and everyone knows how Israel has been exposed, once again, how they have committed a crime against humanity.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke Thursday, saying that Turkey “will not bow to this bullying,” and that “Israel risks losing its most important friend in the region if it doesn’t change its mentality.”
US citizen among those mourned
At the funeral, several thousand Turks bowed in prayer before eight coffins draped with Turkish and Palestinian flags. Family members and fellow activists shed tears, and chanted “God is great!” as they lifted the coffins above the crowd waving flags that included the yellow banner and green assault rifle of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.