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Controversial charity group launches pro-Palestine convoy to İncirlik Airbase

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The president of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), a pro-government and controversial charity group, has announced that his organization is launching a convoy to İncirlik Airbase in southern Turkey to protest ongoing Israeli attacks on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and the US military presence in Turkey, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

İHH President Bülent Yıldırım, who spoke at a news conference in İstanbul on Tuesday, called on people across the country to join the “Freedom Convoy for Palestine” in their cars or in rented buses, scheduled to set out from İstanbul on Friday.

Yıldırım said the people joining the protest will stop in Sakarya, Ankara and Konya provinces where news conferences will be held.

He said if a ceasefire is not immediately declared, they will call on people to march on military bases used by the US around the world.

İncirlik is a Turkish airbase in the southern province of Adana also used by the United States Air Force, which has more than 1,400 airmen there.

Pointing to a map showing military bases used by the US around the world, Yıldırım said the map is an indication of US plans to occupy Turkey. He claimed the US has stationed its troops on military bases neighboring Turkey to occupy the country.

He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he described as the “Hitler” of this era, is controlled by the US and that after the convoy reaches İncirlik Airbase, a huge protest will be held at the airbase in support of Palestine, against Israel and the US.

Protests erupted across Turkey in the wake of the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza, which have so far claimed the lives of more than 8,300 people.

Israel launched the attacks on Gaza in response to an unprecedented attack from the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which left at least 1,400 people dead in Israel on Oct.7.

In the wake of the protests, the US Embassy in Ankara announced on Oct. 18  that the US Consulate in Adana would be closed to the public until further notice, citing security risks stemming from anti-Israeli demonstrations in the country.

Rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the US Consulate building in Adana as a crowd attempted to breach the compound following a hospital strike in Gaza, which left close to 500 civilians dead.

The charity organization IHH came to international attention due to an aid convoy, the Mavi Marmara flotilla, it organized to Gaza in 2010 to break the Israeli blockade.

The flotilla was attacked in international waters on May 31, 2010, and nine Turkish citizens and an American citizen of Turkish descent were killed in the raid. The Mavi Marmara incident sparked a diplomatic crisis with Israel as then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the issue extensively as a political tool in domestic rallies.

The Hamas-Israeli conflict came at a time when Turkey was just normalizing its relations with Israel after years-long tension.

A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel’s over the killing of Palestinians during a conflict with Gaza.

Following months of diplomatic warming, Israel and Turkey announced in August 2022 the full restoration of relations and the return of ambassadors to both countries.

There are claims that the IHH is smuggling arms to jihadist groups in Syria and working with Turkish spy agency the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) to enable jihadist terror groups.

It was flagged by Russia as the organization that smuggled arms to jihadist groups in Syria, according to intelligence documents submitted to the UN Security Council on Feb. 10, 2016.

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