Gaza Flotilla Organizers Disappointed by Turkish Group's Decision to Cancel Ship

Flotilla organizers hold urgent consultations following IHH announcement that Mavi Marmara won't sail to Gaza; five to eight ships expected to take part in flotilla later this month.

Organizers of the flotilla that is set to sail for the Gaza Strip later this month expressed disappointment over the weekend that the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) will not take an active role in the convoy.

The IHH announced on Friday that the Mavi Marmara ship, on which nine Turkish activists were killed last May when it was intercepted by Israeli commandos on its way to Gaza, will not take part in the upcoming convoy.

Mavi Marmara - AP - May 2010

Speaking to Haaretz, a member of the coalition seeking the end of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza called the Turkish group's decision puzzling.

"It is hard to understand the motives behind the cancellation or postponement of the Mavi Marmara setting sail, even if it is political pressure," he said.

On Friday, the IHH president said that the Mavi Marmara would not participate in the flotilla due to technical problems that would not permit it to sail as scheduled.

Flotilla organizers estimate that due to the IHH's decision, only a limited and symbolic delegation of activists from Turkey would participate in the flotilla.

On Saturday, flotilla organizers held urgent consultations. A source familiar with the details told Haaretz that problems have arisen on other boats that are supposed to take part in the flotilla and it is still not known exactly how many ships will participate. The estimate is that five to eight ships will set sail for Gaza.

The source also said that the number of activists taking part in the flotilla is being reduced from 1,000 to around 300.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, which was supposed to discuss on Saturday the composition of its delegation for the flotilla, removed the item from its agenda in light of recent changes. The committee said that it had been invited by the Turks to participate in the flotilla. Due to the IHH's cancellation, the number of participants from the Higher Monitoring Committee is expected to be reduced.