Mavi Marmara passengers insist on lifting of Gaza blockade
Passengers who were onboard the Mavi Marmara, an aid ship that was attacked by Israeli naval forces on its way to Gaza in 2010, have insisted that the blockade and embargo on the Gaza Strip be lifted by Israel so that compensation to be paid to the families of the victims and those injured can be properly discussed. Relations between Turkey and Israel -- countries that once enjoyed solid ties at all levels -- worsened in May 2010 and have remained strained since Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, killing eight Turkish civilians and one Turkish American. Turkish and Israeli delegations will meet in Ankara in the coming days to sort out the issue of compensation for the Mavi Marmara raid, Turkey's second condition for reconciling with the Israeli government. Some of the passengers held a press conference at the Mavi Marmara ship in Istanbul on Monday and said that they would not discuss the compensation issue until the blockade is lifted on the Gaza Strip. The passengers stated that the apology offered to Turkey by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the raid was a diplomatic success to Turkey, adding that this, however, was not enough. The passengers said that they would continue insisting that their main goal be realized. The passengers also shared a note from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the meeting. Musa Coas spoke at the press the conference on behalf of the passengers of the Mavi Marmara. "Without the lifting of the blockade, we are not going to discuss the compensation issue and will not retract our lawsuits against Israeli military personnel involved in the Gaza flotilla incident," said Coas. A trial in the case of four military officers accused of commanding the raid against the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara began in Istanbul in November 2012. They are being tried in absentia. The indictment seeks 10 aggravated life sentences for former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israel's military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Force Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi. "I would only say that the blockade is lifted when I pass to Jerusalem from Gaza", said another passenger, Mustafa Tuna. Coas stated that the amount of compensation to be paid is currently being discussed in the media, adding that this was a situation which is discomforting for the passengers. After saying that the Gaza blockade was still ongoing, Coas added that that apology justified Israel's guilt. "Israel's apology will only be credible when its soldiers are trialed and then sentenced. There should be a step in order to show this will. We will continue to follow the lawsuits against the soldiers and will not give up demanding the compensation paid in exchange for them," said Coas.