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Turkey Bars Israel Military Flights After Gaza Raid


Turkey has closed its airspace to some Israeli military flights following a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, the Turkish prime minister and officials said Monday. This move by Turkish authorities is the latest blow to derailing Israeli-Turkish relations.

An Israeli transport plane was refused entry into Turkey's airspace and ordered it to take an alternative route, Turkish officials confirmed Monday.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also confirmed Sunday at the G20 summit in Toronto that a ban had been implemented following the May 31 raid of a Gaza-bound aid ship, in which nine Turkish citizens on the flotilla were killed.

The Israeli raid on the aid flotilla drew international condemnation. The six-ship flotilla was trying to break a blockade of Gaza that Israel says is needed to prevent weapons reaching militants in the territory.

A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said while there is an official policy in place banning Israeli military aircraft from Turkish airspace, it is not a blanket ban and will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Erdogan speaking at a press conference at the G20 summit said bilateral relations would only be normalized after Israel met a series of demands.

"We, as Turkey, expect an apology from Israel, that's one," he said. "Two, there is a Turkish boat with a Turkish flag and this boat that carries our flag is attacked both by the sea and air. And thirdly, we are asking for the lifting the embargo on Palestine for the installment of peace in the region."

Mr. Erdogan also called for Israel to pay compensation to those Turks killed by Israeli forces.

Although last week Israel did ease its economic embargo on Gaza, observers say its unlikely that any of Mr. Erdogan's demands will be met. Israel claims the Turkish deaths were a result of its forces acting in self defense.

News of the air embargo along with Turkish demands on Israel follows Turkish news reports that U.S. President Barack Obama - during a meeting with the Turkish prime minister at the G20 summit - called for Turkey to normalize relations with Israel. During the 1990s, Turkey and Israel became strategic allies both politically and militarily. But in the last few years, Israel's policy towards Gaza has become an increasing point of tension with Turkey's Islamic-rooted government.

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