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Turkey, Israel Cut 1st Defense Deal Since Freezing Ties

People holding Turkish and Palestinian flags cheer as the Mavi Marmara ship, in the background, the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip which was stormed by Israeli naval commandos in the Mediterranean May 31, 2010, returns to Istanbul, Turkey.
An Israeli firm has supplied Turkey with military equipment in the first such reported deal since the two nations froze ties over the 2010 killing of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship, Turkish government sources said on Monday.

Israeli defence firm Elta delivered to Turkey $100 million of electronic equipment last week for four Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, the sources said, but rebuffed suggestions the deal was a sign of improving ties with the Jewish state.

``Turkey bought the equipment from Boeing and the Israeli company is just a sub-contractor of Boeing, which means we are in direct relationship only with Boeing and not with Israel,'' a foreign ministry official told Reuters, asking not to be named.

Israel's Defence Ministry declined to comment, but an Israeli defence industry source confirmed the deal.

Relations between Israel and what was once its only Muslim ally crumbled after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists on board.

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a U.N. report into the incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated the Jewish state.

That report was meant to foster a thaw between the countries but ultimately deepened the rift when it concluded Israel had used unreasonable force but that the blockade on Gaza was legal.

Israel and NATO member Turkey, which both border Syria, once shared intelligence information and conducted joint military exercises, cooperation which has since been cancelled.

The Israeli defence industry source said Israel had initially not wanted the Elta deal to go through but had relented in 2011 following requests by Boeing.

The rift has continued despite U.S. efforts to encourage a rapprochement between the two regional powers, whose cooperation it needs to address changes sweeping the Middle East.

Turkey has demanded a formal apology, compensation for victims and the families of the dead and for the Gaza blockade to be lifted.

Israel has voiced ``regret'', short of the full apology demanded, and has offered to pay into what it called a ``humanitarian fund'' through which casualties and relatives could be compensated.