TURKEY tr-diplomacy

Turkish woman, son first home from Israeli assault at sea

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 6/1/2010 12:00:00 AM |

A Turkish activist and her 1-year-old baby have returned home after being released by Israeli authorities following the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. (UPDATED 2)

The youngest member of the attacked flotilla of aid ships, a 1-year-old baby, and his mother returned to Turkey early Tuesday as hundreds of passengers, including the boy’s father, remain in Israeli custody.

The Mavi Marmara was attacked by Israeli soldiers early Monday as it tried to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The presence of infant Kaan Türker Çetin onboard was the proof that the boats were civilian vessels, his mother, Nilüfer Çetin, said in a press conference after returning to Turkey.

“I do not regret that I brought my son,” Çetin said, adding that the boy’s father, Mavi Marmara engineer Ekrem Çetin, was in Israeli custody as of Tuesday, the day mother and son, along with six people from the cargo ship Gazze returned to Turkey.

Speaking at his party’s group meeting Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the Israel government offered to send wounded Turkish citizens to Turkey. “We refused this offer, saying, ‘We have the power and will to take our wounded citizens,’” Erdoğan said. “Our two military air ambulances arrived there [in Israel], took the wounded people and are on their way back to Turkey.”

The prime minister said civilian planes from the Health Ministry were also on their way to Israel.

[HH] Rumors about death toll

The Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, which organized the flotilla, released the names Tuesday of 19 wounded Turks. Çetin said although she saw only five people dead on the ship, she was later told by Israeli soldiers that the death toll was 19.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovitch said nine people had died and dozens had been wounded, adding that those who attacked Israeli soldiers will be punished according to Israeli laws, the Anatolia news agency reported.

According to Çetin, at least five people on the Mavi Marmara were fatally injured during the attack and, despite calls from activists on the ship, Israeli soldiers did not allow any treatment for them. “They waited at least an hour. We had a surgery room, 18 doctors and two nurses on board, but the five people died,” she said at İHH in Istanbul.

“What we experienced on board was a breach of human rights. My motherhood was questioned because I brought my baby. This was the proof that our boat was civilian,” she said.

Speaking at a press conference at the İHH office in Istanbul on Tuesday after returning Monday night, Gazze cargo ship crewmember Hazım Emir said they were not treated harshly by the Israeli soldiers. “I don’t know why Israeli officials decided to deport us first,” Emir said. “Maybe they thought we would say how well they treated us when we returned to Turkey.”

İHH was one of the two organizers of the aid shipments; its office in Istanbul’s Fatih district has drawn many people since Monday.

People who were waiting for news about family members on the flotilla were calm Tuesday compared to the scene of devastation Monday. Most said they had been waiting in the İHH building watching the news and had not slept since Monday.



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