A “freedom convoy for Palestine” is on its way from Istanbul to a United States military base in southern Turkey in solidarity with the people of Gaza as Israel wages war on the besieged enclave.
Cars and vans displaying Palestinian and some Turkish flags departed from Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium on Friday morning and headed to the city of Adana, where the Incirlik Air Base is located.
The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Turkish non-profit that organised the event, said hundreds of vehicles were driving towards Turkey’s capital, Ankara, on Friday afternoon with many more protesters expected to join as the convoy stops in cities along the way, covering nearly 1,000km (620 miles).
Convoys departing from three other Turkish cities – Kahramanmaras, Kayseri and Van – were also expected on Sunday to reach Adana, where the demonstrators plan to encircle the Incirlik Air Base to protest against US support for Israel and to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The US and Turkish air forces are the primary users of the airbase, which has been used to fly combat missions over Iraq during the first Gulf War and launch air strikes on Afghanistan. The base has also been used by the US-led coalition fighting ISIL (ISIS).
A white bus with a banner that read “Freedom convoy for Palestine” stood out among dozens of vehicles that set off from Istanbul, joined by local pro-Palestine groups and some international activists.
Protesters, including families with children, gathered in a large parking lot where they held placards with slogans such as “We are all Palestinian” and “You can’t be silent.”
“People were very enthusiastic to go to the American airbase,” Mary Annette Wright, a 77-year-old retired US army colonel and former US diplomat who was at the demonstration, told Al Jazeera.
Turkey has taken a firm position critical of Israel’s actions. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called off a trip to Israel in late October over what he described as an “inhumane” war on Gaza. Addressing a large pro-Palestinian rally last week, Erdogan also called Israel an “occupier”.