Turkey, Iran, offer warship protection for Gaza flotillas
June 7, 2010 4 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Close aides to the Turkish Prime Minister’s office have disclosed that Ankara is funding a new fleet of ships to sail to Gaza under protection by Turkish warships. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps have also offered warship protection. The office of Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, is now actively assisting the Turkish-based Humanitarian Aid Foundation (ÍHH) in fundraising for the acquisition of a new fleet of ships to carry humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Last Monday, an ÍHH-funded flotilla bound for Gaza was raided in international waters by the Israeli Navy, which diverted the ships to Israel after killing nine and injuring over 60 passengers. According to reports from The Associated Press and Agence France Presse, Mr. Erdogan plans to be among the passengers of the new flotilla, which will be escorted en route to Gaza by Turkish warships. Meanwhile, reports from Iran’s government-aligned Mehr News Agency indicate that the country’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have offered their warships as protection for future aid ship convoys to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory. The IRGC, a paramilitary institution tasked with –among other things– exporting the Iranian Revolution abroad, is administratively independent and maintains its own command structure, which includes a separate navy and air force. According to Ali Shirazi, who is the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s IRGC envoy, the Guards stand “fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities”. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the Israel Defense Forces would not allow any Iranian-escorted aid flotillas to create “an Iranian port in Gaza”. Remarkably, however, a Middle East correspondent for The Australian newspaper quotes an unnamed Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, who told him that if “the Turkish PM [boarded the flotilla, it] would not be stopped or towed to [the Israeli port of] Ashdod, but it would mean [Mr. Erdogan] had decided to clearly join the camp of Hamas” [emphasis added].