Wednesday, June 30, 2010

DTN News: Turkey Bars Israeli Military Planes Amid Deepening Rift

Defense News: DTN News: Turkey Bars Israeli Military Planes Amid Deepening Rift
Source: DTN News / AFP
(NSI News Source Info) ISTANBUL, Turkey- June 30, 2010: Turkey has twice denied Israeli military planes access to its airspace in retaliation for the deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships, a diplomat said Tuesday, in a sign of the deepening rift between the one-time allies.
"There have been two flights in request and we refused both," a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said while denying the refusals constituted a blanket ban.
"This does not mean that we will refuse them in the future but we are taking them one by one," he stressed, adding that civilian flights remained unaffected as they were an "international obligation."
The May 31 raid on the aid flotilla, which left eights Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen dead, shattered Turkey's already strained ties with the Jewish state, with Ankara recalling its ambassador and cancelling three planned joint military exercises.
The two countries had been close allies since a 1996 military cooperation deal before their ties nosedived amid sharp Turkish criticism of Israel's devastating war on Gaza begun in December 2008.
Turkish officials gave no details of the flights which were refused, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that an Israeli military plane heading to Poland was barred from flying over Turkey immediately after the raid.
Turkish media quoted the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot as saying that the military plane had been taking an army delegation of 100 officers to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz.
Turkey's English-language Hurriyet Daily News reported on Monday that a second flight had been barred, but gave no details.
Israel's Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said in a statement Monday the country had not been informed of any procedural changes for entering Turkish airspace.
The refusal of the overflight permissions "is a result of the indignation the Israeli assault caused in Turkey," foreign ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told a press conference in Ankara.
"We have already announced that we would take some measures if our demands were not met."
Turkey has said it wants Israel to apologize for the deaths and injuries, compensate the victims' families, agree to an international inquiry, release three Turkish vessels seized in the operation and lift the blockade on Gaza.
Ankara has also urged Washington, a close ally of Israel, to intervene in the crisis, with Erdogan discussing the issue with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Canada ahead of a July trip by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington.
A Turkish diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity that Ankara believed the United States could persuade Israel to meet the Turkish demands for an apology, compensation and return of the ships.
But it is unlikely that there will be any progress on the demand for an international inquiry, he said.
Israel has set up its own commission to investigate the raid, but Turkey has dismissed it as insufficient, insisting on a UN-led international probe.
The activists abroad the aid ships say Israeli soldiers opened fire as soon as they landed. Israel denies the charge and argues that troops used force only after coming under attack from the activists.
Forensic reports made available to AFP Tuesday by lawyers' representing the victims' families showed that all but two of the nine victims were shot more than once, and five died from bullet wounds to the head.
The nine volunteers were shot a total of 31 times, according to the documents.
"The findings make it clear the Israeli forces shot to kill the activists and not to overpower them," one of the lawyers, Yasin Divrak, told AFP.
The youngest victim, a 19-year-old who held both Turkish and US citizenship, was shot five times, including twice in the head, his autopsy report said.
Another victim was shot six times, including once in the abdomen, while a third was hit by five bullets, among them a fatal one in the chest, according to the documents.
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