Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Turkey Bans Israeli Military Flight from Its Airspace as Freeze Deepens

Move represents further escalation of crisis between countries since Gaza flotilla incident in May

by
Ian Black

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, demanded an ­apology from Israel over the deadly flotilla raid. (Photograph: AP)

Turkey has banned an Israeli military flight from its airspace in apparent retaliation for Israel's interception of the Free Gaza flotilla last month, in which nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed.

Officials
in Ankara confirmed today that Israeli military aircraft would be
permitted to enter Turkish airspace only on a "case by case" basis.
There was no suggestion that civilian flights would be affected.

Israeli
media reported that Turkey had not allowed a plane transporting
military personnel to a tour of Holocaust memorial sites in Poland to
cross its airspace. The aircraft, with more than 100 people on board,
was forced to make a detour. Israel has not commented on the issue.

The
move represents a further escalation of the crisis between the
countries. Secular but Muslim Turkey, a Nato member, was Israel's most
significant Middle Eastern ally, but the relationship has been battered
by Israel's recent wars against Hezbollah and Hamas and by an eastward
shift in Turkish foreign policy.

Tensions worsened last month
over the Gaza incident, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime
minister, demanding an apology from Israel. The foreign minister, Ahmet
Davutoglu, compared the incident to the September 2001 terrorist
attacks. Turkey is also insisting on an international inquiry,
compensation for the nine victims — eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish
citizen — and a lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

Israel has
resisted calls for an international inquiry and has set up its own
investigative commission, which includes two foreign observers. It held
its first session today.

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to
Israel and scrapped several joint military exercises. Israel's Ynet
news website reported that other military flights had also been quietly
cancelled. "Turkey is continuing to downgrade its relations with
Israel," an unnamed official told Ynet. "This is a long-term process
and not something that began just after the flotilla incident. We are
very concerned."

Despite strained relations, a Turkish security
delegation has visited Israel in the past month to examine
remote-piloted vehicles purchased from Israel Aerospace Industries.

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