At the end of May, IDF soldiers boarded a flotilla of activist ships attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. During the boarding, nine activists on the largest ship, Mavi Marmara, died. In the wake of the deadly incident the arab street expressed outrage. Governments in the region were quick to exploit the anti-Israeli public sentiment. Turkey’s Prime Minister even suggested he might break the blockade himself, escorted by the Turkish military. However unlikely, the statement garnered him a surge in popularity amongst his countrymen and Palestinian supporters.
Iran has also attempted to use the media attention to boost its popularity. Initially, Iran hinted at sending the Revolutionary Guard to escort convoys, but after that was rejected by Hamas the idea was dropped. Now, Iran has taken a different approach. Over the last few days, two Iranian ships carrying food, construction supplies, and toys left port in the latest attempt to run the blockade of Gaza. The flotilla was organized by the Iranian Red Crescent Society. Iranian officials have confirmed that the Revolutionary Guard will not be escorting the blockade runners.
This is not the first time Iran has sent an aid ship to Gaza. In 2009, an Iranian ship carrying food and medical supplies was blocked from docking in Gaza by the Israeli Navy and from docking in el-Arish by the Egyptian Navy. However, given new political climate after the last flotilla raid, these new blockade runners will in all likelihood make a more concerted effort to make it to Gaza’s shores, forcing Israel to again use a heavy hand.