The Turkish ferry at the centre of a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla arrived back in Turkey today, media reports said. Footage broadcast on the NTV news channel showed the Mavi Marmara being towed into the port of Iskenderun on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Authorities imposed strict security measures for the ship's arrival, barring reporters from entering the port, the Anatolia news agency said.
Another Turkish vessel seized in the Israeli raid arrived at Iskenderun late last night while a third was expected later today, Anatolia said. All three ships were towed out of Israel yesterday. The head of the Iskenderun port, Cumhur Ozturkler, told Anatolia that the vessels would be inspected first by Turkish officials and then by a delegation from the United Nations which has launched an international inquiry into the Israeli raid.
The vessels were part of a six-ship flotilla which tried to run Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and deliver tonnes of humanitarian aid. On May 31, Israeli commandos stormed all six ships, which descended into violence and resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara. The bloodshed delivered a heavy blow to Turkish-Israeli ties, prompting Ankara to recall its ambassador and cancel joint war games with the Jewish state.
Troops involved in the Israeli raid say they resorted to lethal force only after being attacked. Activists however claimed the commandos opened fire as soon as they boarded the vessel, which was in international waters at the time. * AFP