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Efforts underway to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza via international campaign

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Humanitarian organizations and human rights advocates from around the world have announced through a large-scale meeting in İstanbul their objective to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza by sea and land as part of the International Gaza Relief Campaign, Voice of America (VOA) Turkish edition reported on Friday.

The group gathered at a hotel in İstanbul on Thursday told the press that preparations are underway to establish a fleet that will deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza by no later than January.

Speaking to VOA, Beheşti İsmail Songür, the president of the Turkish Mavi Marmara Freedom and Solidarity Association, which is involved in the initiative, said they have “no tolerance to wait even a second” to provide aid to Gaza, which he described as an “open-air prison and genocide camp.”

“Can we be expected to remain normal and calm in the face of the images of children being killed in Gaza right now? … What Gaza is asking from us, what the Palestinian government is asking from us, is humanitarian aid at the moment,” Songür said.

The association president stated that they will employ “civil disobedience” both from the Mediterranean and the Rafah border crossing in Egypt to meet the demands of the Palestinian authorities. He further expressed their intention to organize a protest demonstration.

Lawyer Gülden Sönmez also told VOA that the Rome Statute, the founding statute of the International Criminal Court, along with the Geneva Convention, imposes responsibility on states to break the blockade on Gaza.

“If you are a neighboring state, like Egypt, Lebanon or Turkey and you have the means, you are obliged to facilitate this passage. … In essence, while Gaza is waiting for us … international law tells us to go to Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid. … The streets of the world, the conscience of the human family, are behind all of us. May our path be clear,” she said.

Sönmez was the lawyer representing the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla, which was attacked in international waters on May 31, 2010.

Nine Turkish citizens and an American citizen of Turkish descent were killed in the raid. The Mavi Marmara incident sparked a diplomatic crisis with Israel as then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the issue extensively as a political tool in domestic rallies.

The two countries made a deal that was ratified by the Turkish Parliament in August 2016. The families of the victims were offered compensation in the amount of $20 million, which was harshly criticized by the opposition in Turkey given how much Erdoğan has capitalized on the issue.

A few months after the deal, İstanbul’s 7th High Criminal Court dismissed a case against Israeli officers blamed for a raid on the flotilla.

Erdoğan, who accused Israel of “state terrorism” the day after the raid, criticized the organizers of the aid flotilla during a public gathering six years later in 2016, saying, “Did you ask the prime minister of the time before you embarked on a humanitarian mission from Turkey to Gaza? We have already provided the necessary assistance to Gaza and we continue to do so.”

Israel launched heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for an unprecedented Hamas incursion on Oct. 7 that resulted in an estimated 1,200 deaths and 240 hostages being taken to Gaza.

According to the latest data received from Gaza’s health ministry, Israeli strikes across Gaza have resulted in the deaths of at least 13,000 people and injured 30,000 more, also leading to the internal displacement of 1.6 million — approximately two-thirds of Gaza’s population.

The attacks also targeted several hospitals, including the enclave’s sole cancer treatment facility, the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli blockade for 17 years. A four-day ceasefire mediated by Qatar between Israel and Hamas, the first pause in the ongoing conflicts that have persisted for seven weeks, began at 7 am on Friday.

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