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Gaza flotilla returns to Turkey
Mavi Marmara will be inspected by Turkish authorities and a UN delegation.
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2010 12:02 GMT
Israeli airborne troops landed on Mavi Marmara and opened fire on unarmed but angry activists [AFP]

The Turkish ferry at the centre of a deadly raid, in which Israeli commandoes killed nine pro-Palestinian activists, has returned home.

The Mavi Marmara arrived in the port of Iskenderun on Saturday after being towed from Israel, where it had been held since the May 31 attack.

Cumhur Ozturkler, the head of the port, told Turkey’s Anatolia news agency that the vessel would be inspected by Turkish officials and then by a delegation from the United Nations, which has launched an investigation into the Israeli raid.

The vessel was part of a six-ship flotilla which tried to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip to deliver tons of humanitarian aid. Two other vessels are also being returned to Turkey.

Israel still holds the other three non-Turkish vessels from the flotilla, as well as an Irish cargo ship, the Rachel Corrie, that sailed a few days later.

As the ships were released by Israel on Thursday, an Israeli official said the foreign ministry had sent Ankara "a message ... expressing Israel's expectation that Turkey will prevent other Turkish vessels from violating the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"The message emphasises that Israel transfers equipment and goods to Gaza on an ongoing basis via the land crossings in a manner that is acceptable to the international community and which is anchored in recognised agreements," the official said.

The killings of the Turkish activists severely damaged Israel's ties with its only close Muslim ally. 

The fallout from the raid has even affected Turkey's tourism, with the number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey dropping by 90 per cent.

Only 2,605 Israeli citizens visited Turkey in June 2010, compared to 27,289 in June last year, the Turkish tourism ministry said.

In the first six months of the year, 75,071 Israelis came to Turkey, down 17.9 per cent from the 91,450 Israeli citizens who had travelled to Turkey during the same period last year.

Source:
Agencies
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