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Mavi Marmara may skip next Gaza mission

June 16, 2011 10:12 P.M. (Updated: June 17, 2011 1:36 P.M.)
ANKARA (AFP) -- The Turkish ship that became famous after it was raided by Israeli troops while en route to Gaza may not join an upcoming aid mission to the Palestinian territory, a mission organizer said on Thursday.

Israeli marines killed nine Turkish activists in May 2010 when they stormed the Mavi Marmara in international waters as the ferry tried to break Israel's widely condemned blockade on Gaza.

Activists are planning to send another flotilla to Gaza at the end of June, partly to commemorate the events last year, which ignited a diplomatic row between Israel and Turkey, two countries that once had good relations.

However a spokesman for the Turkish Islamist charity IHH, which is spearheading the mission, told the NTV television station that the Mavi Marmana "has not fully completed its preparations," and may not be able to sail.

"There are still some documents missing for the new trip," Huseyin Oruc said, explaining that ship had recently been worked on.

The organization said it will likely decide Friday on whether the vessel will take part in the upcoming mission.

If the ship does sail, its cargo might be inspected by UN experts before departing, according to Oruc.

Israel has strongly urged Turkey to block the flotilla from leaving this time, warning that its forces will again take action to prevent activists from arriving in Gaza.

Egypt has reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, allowing more material to flow into the territory and effectively weakening Israel's blockade of the coastal territory.

Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on activists to rethink the upcoming mission after the Rafah opening.

He suggested that aid could now be delivered without provoking Israel or risking the lives of citizens.

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006, after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was snatched by a group of Gaza-based militants. It tightened the restrictions a year later, when the radical Palestinian Hamas movement took control of the enclave.

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