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.
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The IHH added important heft to the "Freedom Flotilla," the ninth such attempt by activists to break Israel's Gaza blockade by sea. The IHH had purchased the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, which was carrying the bulk of the flotilla's 10,000 tons of aid when it was attacked by Israeli commandos on Monday morning.Skip to next paragraph
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Among the dead was Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old US-Turkish citizen from the conservative industrial city of Keyseri. He had been shot in the forehead, according to his father, who identified his son. One friend who was with Dogan on the boat said he was shot five times, in the head and chest.
Eyewitness accounts of the Israeli raid
Some 466 activists arrived in Istanbul in the early hours of Thursday, among them more than 50 foreigners. Some were at the funeral, and their eyewitness accounts differed sharply from the official Israeli version of events.
Sakir Yildirim, a dual British-Turkish citizen, said he and fellow activists expected some trouble, but during the trip “were all happy and laughing because we thought we would make it to Gaza” – and that Israel would fire plastic bullets, not live rounds.
When the first two Israeli naval ships came close to the Mavi Marmara during predawn prayers on Monday, “I thought: they are not going to do anything horrible; they are human beings,” said Mr. Yildirim. “Everyone agreed: We would just try to push them back to where they came from.”
Instead, the Israeli commandos stormed the ship, firing from the decks and also from at least the helicopter above. Yildirim says he saw one activist shot in the forehead when the red point of a laser rifle sight found its target a few yards from him. When the same light crossed his face, he said he quickly “hid” out of sight.
“They started firing, and I heard bullets going all over the place,” said Yildirim. The captain of the ship finally issued orders not to resist; the Israeli soldiers brought Yildirim and others to their knees, with guns to their heads.
Yildirim runs a kebab shop in the English city of Bristol. Part of the ship’s cargo was $7,500 worth of cement for Gaza, and $3,000 in cash explicitly earmarked for orphans in Gaza--all of it donated by people in Bristol.
That cash – and $3,750 of his own money, he says – was never returned.
“We couldn’t deliver the goods,” says Yildirim. “But I think it has really been successful. At least now the world is watching Gaza.”
Activist says they threw Israeli guns in the sea
Yildirim and other activists said that most among them were pacifists. Ali Yunusoalu, a friend of Dogan who was on the ship during the attack and filmed it – though his camera and film were confiscated – said he saw one older man shot in the leg. When activists took the rifles of the first three Israeli soldiers to touch down on the deck, the activists “threw them [the guns] into the sea,” recalled Mr. Yunusoalu.