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Turkey threatens flotilla to shatter Israel blockade

Pro-Palestinian activists wave Palestinian flags on the cruise liner Mavi Marmara as it is welcomed in Istanbul Dec. 26, 2010, after trying to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

TEL AVIV – Turkey has renewed serious conversations with Hamas to send a flotilla of activist ships to the Gaza Strip to end Israel’s naval blockade there, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

Such a flotilla could complicate the Jewish state’s ongoing military campaign to stop Hamas’ rocket fire from the territory while scaling back the terror group’s infrastructure and targeting Hamas leadership.

Earlier this month, a coalition of activists announced it would deploy a flotilla to Gaza by the end of this year but released no launch date. The flotilla threat died down after a series of short-term cease-fires were reached between Israel and Hamas.

Now, the Hamas-linked Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, the IHH, is officially organizing the new flotilla.

It’s the group that sponsored the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” in May 2010 that engaged in deadly clashes with Israeli troops.

The Middle Eastern security officials said the Turkish government is directly involved in coordinating the flotilla tactic.

The flotilla plan is particularly significant since, according to media reports, the Obama administration has sought to elevate the roles of Turkey and Qatar in the now collapsed truce talks.

The administration also has been advocating an enhanced diplomatic role for Turkey in any post-conflict Gaza.

Perhaps foreshadowing a longer military campaign in Gaza, Israel approved the call-up of 10,000 reservists as Hamas kept up rocket fire against Israel on Wednesday. A lull was broken earlier in the week with a heavy rocket barrage at central and southern Israel.