ISTANBUL | The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip received a hero’s welcome here Monday as he visited the ship where nine Turks were killed during an attempt to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010.
“On behalf of the martyrs of our Palestinian people and on behalf of the families of the martyrs, I salute the martyrs and the families of the liberty ship, the [Mavi] Marmara,” Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in front of the Turkish ship.
“And we would like to tell you that your blood is our blood, and your martyrs are our martyrs.”
The Mavi Marmara was the largest vessel in a six-ship flotilla that tried to run Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010. Israeli forces boarded the ship in international waters and were attacked by passengers; nine Turkish nationals died in the melee.
His visit comes as Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinian faction controlling the West Bank, seek to implement a long-stalled unity agreement. Hamas has stated its intention to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which has represented Palestinians in peace talks with Israel for two decades.
Mr. Haniyeh was joined in Istanbul by Gaza’s ministers of finance, education and health.
In an interview, Health Minister Basam Naim expressed optimism about Palestinian reconciliation despite continued wrangling over who would be prime minister of a unity government.
“I think if there are good intentions, names will not be the biggest problem, as long as there are acceptable programs from both sides,” Mr. Naim said.
“At this stage, we are not discussing the program, the content,” he said. “We are discussing the framework, the shape of PLO, how should it be representative for all Palestinians inside and outside Palestine after the big changes inside Palestine after more than 45 years since the establishment of the PLO.”View Entire Story
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Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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