From ZOE MAGEE @ ABC News:
A U.S. citizen who lived in Turkey is among the nine people killed when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid ship heading for the Gaza Strip, officials said today. The victim was identified as Furkan Dogan, 19, a Turkish-American. A forensic report said he was shot at close range, with four bullets in his head and one in his chest, according to the Anatolian news agency.
Dogan was a high school student studying social sciences in the town of Kayseri in central Turkey. He was born in the United States and moved to Turkey at the age of 2. He will be buried in his hometown tomorrow.
Dogan’s body was returned to Turkey today along with eight others, all Turkish nationals, who were on board the Mavi Marmara.
The ship was sponsored by a Turkish charity, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) and was carrying aid to Gaza in defiance of the Israeli blockade. The charity released the names of all nine dead. All are male and the ages range from 19 to 61.
The Mavi Marmara formed part of a flotilla that was organized by the Free Gaza movement and intended to break the three-year Israeli blockade on the embattled Palestinian enclave.
Israeli commandos rappelled onto the decks of the six ships Monday, but on the Mavi Marmara the passengers battled the soldiers with metal rods, wrested weapons from soldiers and, according to the Israeli military, fired on them. Nine people died and more than 30 were wounded, including several Israeli troops.
The activists on board the ship told a very different version of events from the one released by the Israeli military.
A Canadian on board, Farooq Burney, described watching an elderly man bleed to death. The head of a Turkish charity that organized the aid flotilla said an Indonesian doctor was shot in the stomach and a photographer was shot in the forehead.
Flotilla Passengers Dispute Israeli Version of Flotilla Raid
“They [Israeli commandos] were trying to land on the boat. So obviously there was this hand-to-hand combat and during that process the people on the boat were basically able to disarm some of the soldiers because they did have guns with them,” Burney told Reuters. “So they basically took the guns away from them and took the cartridges out and threw them away.”
Asked if anyone had used the guns against the Israeli commandos, Burney said, “No, not at all.”
“Yes, we took their guns. It would be self defence even if we fired their guns,” Bulent Yildirim, chairman of the IHH, said.
“We told our friends on board we will die, become martyrs, but never let us be shown… as the ones who used guns,” he said, adding that people shouted that the weapons should not be used.
“By this decision, our friends accepted death, and we threw all the guns we took from them into the sea,” Yildirim said.
Thousands of mourners flocked to the funeral held for the Turkish activists today in Istanbul. Coffins of most of those killed, draped in Turkish and Palestinian flags, were brought to Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque for the service before the bodies were taken to their home towns for burial.
“Turkey will never forget such an attack on its ships and its people in international waters. Turkey’s ties with Israel will never be the same again,” Turkish President Abdullah Gul told a news conference.
“Israel made one of the greatest mistakes in its history. It will see in time what a huge mistake it made,” he said.
Equally harsh words are being used by the Israelis.
The alliance is dead, a senior official in Jerusalem said Tuesday night, according to Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. “The Turks are right about one thing: Irreversible harm has been caused to the relations. In the situation that has been created, Turkey will no longer be a strategic ally of Israel.”
Israel and Turkey face many challenges in which both have strong mutual interests, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Andy David said.
“Hopefully, we’ll overcome the shadows that we see today,” he told ABC News.
Israel’s Next Test: the Rachel Corrie Due in the Area Friday
Meanwhile, Israel is preparing for a new ship to run the blockade, the Irish ship MV Rachel Corrie, due to arrive in the area Friday.
“The Rachel Corrie will not be allowed into Gaza,” David said. “We are watching it and waiting to see what will happen. Hopefully, the people on board will direct to the port in Ashdod. “The naval blockade is still in effect and the ship will not be allowed to enter into the naval blockade area.”
Former U.N. assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, who is on board the Rachel Corrie, told ABC News that they do not intend to stop their mission or head to the Israeli port of Ashdod instead.
“It’s a totally unacceptable embargo. There’s no justification for it, there’s no legality for it, it’s not endorsed by the U.N., it’s not endorsed by anybody else. It’s an Israeli military zone which is without legal status,” he said in a phone interview from the ship today.
The Rachel Corrie expects to be boarded by the Israelis Friday when they are approximately 80 miles off coast.
“When they tell they are about to board we will cooperate because it’s too dangerous not to do so, particularly as you say it may be at night which is the usual tactic. We’re not fools, we’re not about to throw away our lives.”
“We’re very upbeat and having seen the appalling consequences of Monday we’re more determined than ever to try and make this work,” Halliday said.