Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu urged different routes in supplying humanitarian aid to Gaza, pointing to the dangers flotilla participants may face in trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade.
İhsanoğlu told Turkish reporters in Astana, where he was attending the 38th foreign ministers meeting of the OIC, that nine civilians were killed in an Israeli raid last year when the Mavi Marmara, one of the six vessels of the flotilla, tried to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade. Noting that Israel ignored international law when it killed nine civilians last year, İhsanoğlu said similar incident may cause irreparable problems. “[There is] no need for this. We [Turkey] provided a large amount of aid to Gaza and continue to send aid,” İhsanoğlu said.
Several hundred activists, many of them from Europe, Canada and the United States, plan to board 10 boats, including two cargo vessels carrying medicine and other aid, for a journey of several days across the Mediterranean to Gaza. They say their operation is peaceful.
Israel has warned it will thwart any attempt to breach the sea blockade of the Palestinian territory.
The OIC secretary-general pointed to the Rafah border gate, which Egypt has recently opened, as an easier route to provide aid to the strip. Saying he welcomes Israeli steps to partially lift the embargo on Gaza, İhsanoğlu underlined that imposing an embargo on Gaza is completely against human rights. “We see it as occupation of other territories, an assault on others’ territories,” he added.
Activists view Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a human rights violation, while Israel says the restrictions prevent weapons from reaching Hamas. Egypt also had enforced a blockade of Gaza since 2007. However, after last year’s confrontation on the high seas, Israel significantly eased restrictions on cargo crossing into Gaza by land, and this month Egypt decided to reopen its Rafah passenger crossing with Gaza.
İhsanoğlu also noted that the OIC will be working hard on lobbying for recognition of Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly in September. He said 118 countries recognized Palestine today and 55 of those countries are from the OIC, adding the strength and determination of the OIC is undebateable and that the Palestinian cause is the number one cause of the Islamic world.