‘Freedom convoy’ to US military base in Turkey calls for Gaza ceasefire | Israel-Palestine conflict news

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Istanbul, Turkey – A “freedom convoy for Palestine” is on its way from Istanbul to the United States military base in southern Turkey in solidarity with the people of Gaza while Israel is waging war on the besieged strip.

Cars and vans with Palestinian flags and some Turkish ones left from the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on Friday morning and went to the city of Adana, where the Incirlik Air Base is located.

The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Turkish non-profit that organized the event, said hundreds of vehicles were driving towards the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Friday afternoon in anticipation to be joined by many more activists as the convoy stops in cities along the way, covering nearly 1,000km (620 miles).

Convoys departing from three other Turkish cities – Kahramanmaras, Kayseri and Van – were also expected to arrive in Adana on Sunday, where the demonstrators plan to surround the Incirlik Air Base to protest against the support of the US to Israel and call for ceasefire in Gaza.

The US and Turkish air forces are the main users of the air base, which was used to fly combat missions over Iraq during the first Gulf War and to launch air strikes on Afghanistan. The base is also used by the US-led coalition fighting ISIL (ISIS).

Cars and vans with Palestinian and some Turkish flags left the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on Friday morning. [REUTERS/Murad Sezer]
Cars and buses with Palestinian and some Turkish flags depart from Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium on November 3, 2023 [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

A white bus with a banner that read “Freedom convoy for Palestine” stood out among dozens of vehicles that left Istanbul, along with local pro-Palestinian groups and some international activists.

Protesters, including families with children, gathered in a large parking lot where they held placards with slogans such as “We are all Palestinian” and “You cannot be silent.”

“People were very enthusiastic about going to the American air base,” Mary Annette Wright, a 77-year-old US army colonel and former American diplomat who was at the show, told Al Jazeera.

Turkey has taken a strong position critical of Israel’s actions. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled a trip to Israel in late October over what he described as an “inhumane” war on Gaza. Addressing a large pro-Palestinian rally last week, Erdogan also called Israel an “occupier”.

Wright, who resigned over the Iraq war in 2003, is part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, a solidarity movement that has launched a number of campaigns to raise awareness and challenge sanctions. Israel on Gaza, which has now lasted more than 16 years and has been tightened to a “total siege” since the war began on October 7, meaning that Israel has stopped delivering food, fuel , water and medical supplies.

“[There are] people from Canada, Norway, Sweden, UK, Spain, Italy, Malaysia, South Africa [in the convoy headed to Adana]”, said Wright.

‘We are heartbroken’

The NGO behind the convoy is one of the main organizers of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” 2010, an effort by six civilian ships, including the flagship Mavi Marmara, to break the Israeli blockade and support -into Gaza.

Ten protesters died in the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, which was carrying mostly Turks, causing a rift in relations between Turkey and Israel that the two sides had only begun to mend. recently.

“In 2018, I was in charge of a ship from Norway to Palestine,” said The Norwegian sociologist Gerd von der Lippe, who joined the convoy, referring to another flotilla that went to Gaza that year.

“At that time, I stayed in an Israeli prison with 22 other people. I am happy and proud to be part of the work done for Gaza.”

International peace activists Wendy Goldsmith of Canada and Gerd von der Lippe of Norway join the convoy in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 3, 2023. [REUTERS/Murad Sezer]
International peace activists join the convoy in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 3, 2023 [Murad Sezer/ Reuters]

“Anybody who has some humanity should join this convoy,” Mustafa Ozbek, a spokesman for the IHH, told Al Jazeera as the convoy made its way to Ankara.

“We are driving down the highway right now, and we expect more people to be together in Ankara,” he said. “People from different countries have also come together.”

People in Turkey have been protesting against the war in Gaza since it began.

The war has so far killed more than 9,000 Palestinians as Israel continues to bombard the sea and press ahead with a ground offensive in northern Gaza. More children have died in Gaza since the start of the war than in all conflicts around the world in each of the past four years, according to the charity Save the Children. More than 1,400 people in Israel have lost their lives, mostly in the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, which started the war.

“We are heartbroken because of what is happening in Gaza,” said activist Yusuf Gungor. “Our brothers and sisters need to know that they are not alone.”

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