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Turkey closes airspace to Israeli military flights

Turkey has closed its airspace to Israeli military aircraft, citing a raid on Gaza-bound aid ships last month by Israeli commandos which left eight Turks and a US-Turkish citizen dead.

Map of region with Israeli and Turkish flags

Turkey is ramping up pressure on Israel

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other government officials have confirmed that Ankara has barred Israeli military planes from its airspace until further notice and that any future flights would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Last month's raid of Gaza-bound aid ships, in which Israeli commandos shot dead eight people of Turkish origin, has severely strained ties between the two countries.

Israel has said that its soldiers were acting in self-defense when they came under attack during the raid.

Erdogan told reporters at the G20 meeting in Toronto, Canada, that Turkey had imposed the ban on Israeli military flights, but that commercial flights were not affected.

Israel fighter pilots in full flight dress standing in front of an F-16 jet

Turkey is curtailing its ties to the Israeli Air Force

Israeli media reported on Sunday that one of its Air Force jets carrying a large group of officers on their way to Poland for a recent visit to the former Auschwitz concentration camp was denied permission to fly over Turkey and had to change course.

Last year, Turkey blocked Israeli pilots from participating in a multinational military exercise, leading to the event's cancelation.

Israel launches inquiry

Immediately after the Gaza aid flotilla incident, Ankara recalled its ambassador to Israel, scrapped plans for three joint military exercises and said economic and defense ties would be reduced to a minimum.

Turkey and Israel had built a strong alliance following a 1996 military cooperation deal, but relations between the two have been deteriorating since the 2009 Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Israel on Monday opened an investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident. The five-person inquiry panel, headed by former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel, began proceedings by calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehurd Barak to testify. Israel has promised a rigorous inquiry into the affair.

Author: Gregg Benzow
Editor: Rob Turner

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