ISTANBUL — The leader of the Hamas militant group 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 Gaza blockade. Israeli forces boarded the ship in international waters and were attacked by passengers; nine Turkish nationals died in the melee.
His visit to the Mavi Marmara came a day after he met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose public embrace of the group has enraged Israel and raised concerns in the West.