Thousands Gather in Turkey to Greet Ship at Center of Gaza Flotilla Raid

Nine activists were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was intercepted en route to the Gaza Strip by Israeli commandos in May.

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Thousands of pro-Palestinian activists gathered Sunday at a port in Istanbul to welcome back a Turkish-flagged ship that was the scene of bloodshed during an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.

The Mavi Marmara, on which nine Turkish activists were killed and several Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded, underwent repairs at a Mediterranean port in the wake of the commando raid.

The ship was one of several in a flotilla attempting to break Israel's naval blockade on the Gaza when it was intercepted by Israel Navy troops on May 31.

At Istanbul's Sarayburu port, crowds were waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanting "Allah is great". Some activists boarded boats to greet the ship as it arrived.

Relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorated after the incident, with Turkey demanding an apology and compensation for those killed.

Turkey's Foreign Minister reiterated this position as recently as Saturday, saying: "Turkish citizens have been killed in international waters, nothing can cover up this truth. If our friendship with Israel is to continue, the way for it is to apologize and offer compensation."

Israeli commandos said they opened fire in self-defense after meeting what they called unexpected resistance when they boarded the ferry carrying aid supplies to Gaza.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also wants Israel to end its blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt blockaded Gaza after the militant Islamic Hamas seized control there in 2007.

Pro-Palestinian activists greet the Mavi Marmara as it returns to Turkey on December 26, 2010Credit: YouTube

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