News / Middle East

Turkish PM Calls Israel's Reaction to Aid Ships 'Bloody Massacre'

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his lawmakers at the parliament in Ankara, 01 Jun 2010
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his lawmakers at the parliament in Ankara, 01 Jun 2010

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Turkey's prime minister criticized Israel Tuesday for a "bloody massacre" that killed at least nine people on a Gaza-bound aid ship. A small number of Turkish citizens on the aid ships have returned to Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's stinging words came after Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and and called the U.N. Security Council to an emergency meeting demanding an impartial investigation into Monday's deadly attack.

Mr. Erdogan was speaking publicly for the first time about the incident after curtailing his visit to Latin America.

No apology can clean the blood from their hands, he said. He added that the bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse.

Listen to David Byrd's interview with Tachlan Suerdem of VOA's Near East and Central Asia Division:

But Mr. Erdogan tempered his rhetoric by calling for cool heads and said all Turkey's actions will be done within the context of international law. He also announced that two Turkish military air ambulances had been sent to Israel to help return the wounded. His speech drew a standing ovation from his party deputies.

But the loudest applause was for his call for the ending of Israel's embargo against Palestinians living in Gaza.

Israel and Turkey were until recently close allies both on a military and political level, but since the Israeli attack on Gaza last year, relations have rapidly deteriorated.

Israel has released a few Turks, but hundreds are still being detained.

Arriving at Istanbul's Ataturk airport looking dazed and tired, they were mobbed by dozens of Turkish journalists.

One of the returnees was Nilufer Cetin who was traveling with her one-year-old child on the Mavi Marmara. She described the attack to reporters.

It was extremely bad and very tough clashes took place, she said. The Mavi Marmara was filled with blood.  She said the operation started immediately with firing. First it was warning shots, but when the Mavi Marmara wouldn't stop, these warnings turned into an attack.

Israel, which launched a full-scale assault on Gaza 18 months ago, says its blockade aims to weaken Hamas militants who have fired rockets at Israeli towns.

The Gaza war halted indirect Israeli-Syrian talks mediated by Turkey and drew fierce criticism from Mr. Erdogan, who has since emphasized ties with anti-Israel neighbors like Iran and Syria.

Related video by Laurel Bowman:

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