But that flotilla was stopped by an Israeli assault that killed nine activists (one with American citizenship) in international waters, sparking international condemnation that led Israeli to ease, though not lift, its blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.
This year, Israel has been furiously lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations to try to prevent boats from sailing. It has issued threats stating that all means will be used to stop the ships from reaching Gaza. The Government Press Office even warned that any journalists on board could – along with activists – be barred from the country for 10 years, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office later said that the press would be exempt.
IHH, the Turkish Islamic charity group that organized the flagship Mavi Marmara's participation last year, elected to sit this year's protest out, citing technical difficulties and an urgent need for humanitarian aid in Syria and Libya, where popular uprisings are confronting entrenched dictatorships.
But political pressure likely played a part. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, no doubt concerned about a further decline in an already deteriorating Israeli relationship at a time when the region is in turmoil, warned against participation this year – as did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.