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Thousands Protest Against Israel In Istanbul

The wife of one of the nine activists killed in the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid convoy weeps on his coffin.
Thousands of people waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and shouting anti-Israeli slogans today rallied in Istanbul in support of victims of an Israeli raid.

The crowd gathered outside the Beyazit Mosque, where a memorial service was held for one of the nine Turkish activists killed when Israeli troops clashed with passengers on a ship trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza on May 31.

Israel has been widely criticized over the raid, which took place in international waters.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today said he did not view Hamas, which rules the coastal Palestinian territory, as a terrorist organization, but "resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land."

His deputy, Bulent Arinc, warned that Turkey may reduce economic and defense ties with Israel, once its close ally.

In Washington, Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan voiced disappointment that the United States had failed to condemn Israel over its deadly raid.

Activists say another aid ship is on its way to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave. Israel has made it clear it will not allow the ship to dock at Gaza.

compiled from agency reports