Turkish court orders arrest of 4 Israeli officials

Photo: Turkish court orders arrest of 4 Israeli officials / Turkey

Nearly four years ago the Israeli navy attacked the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship in humanitarian flotilla carrying aid and construction materials to the Gaza, which remains under an Israeli blockade Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkish grief and rage at the deaths and humiliation Turkish citizens suffered continues.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish nationals and an American of Turkish origin in international waters when they attacked the Mavi Marmara. The convoy was led and established by the Turkish NGO the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). Ugur Suleyman Soylemez, an IHH member, was also badly injured during the raid in 2010 and died at the age of 51 on Sunday after being in coma nearly 4 years. The numbers of those who died due to the attack now stands at 10.

The sixth hearing in the Mavi Marmara trial was held in Istanbul seventh High Criminal Court on Monday. The Turkish court ordered arrest of four Israeli officials, who authorized and ordered the raid and an INTERPOL red notice to be issued for the officials, who neither attended the trial nor responded to the summons sent for them.

The Israeli officials named by the court are Israel's former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy.

"The decision is proof that Israeli soldiers and commanders can be put on trial," Ugur Yildirim, an attorney in the Mavi Marmara case, told Anadolu Agency (AA).

In 2012, under compulsion from the U.S., Israel offered an apology and reportedly offered compensation of $20 million to the families of those Turks who died in the attack on the Mavi Marmara.

"We don't care much for the apology and compensation. These are big successes for Turkey. What is most important is that blockade and embargo on Gaza be lifted," Bulent Yildirim, IHH president said in Istanbul.

"Israel has turned into an open-air prison for Israeli commanders now," a statement from IHH said on Twitter. "IHH will not give up. The families of victims are with us. We will blockade these officials from going abroad, and just as they imposed embargo on Palestine, we will impose an embargo on them as well."

Bulent Yildirim said he ordered IHH members on the convoy, "Do not kill, even if you are killed," and explained why all of the killed during the attack were Turkish. "We put some guards in the ship against any attacks. We wanted them to be all Turks in order to avoid any language problems. That's why all those killed during the attack were Turks."

Hasan Yaldiz, whose brother was killed during the Mavi Marmara attack, told Anadolu Agency, "We do not accept any apology or compensation from the Israeli government. Our priority is for the blockade and embargo imposed on Gaza to be lifted."

Hasan's brother Fahri Yaldiz was 43 years old when he died. He had four children.

Cetin Topcuoglu, a Turkey and European taekwondo champion, was shot during the raid and was 54 when he died. His wife, Cigdem Topcuoglu, was present with her husband in the ship during the raid, "We -- together with 600 people -- set out for humanity on that day. We did not make any discrimination on ground of religion, race and language. The families of other victims do not care about apology and compensation. We care for nothing until they lift embargo on Gaza."

The deadly raid in 2010, which caused international outrage, soured Turkish-Israeli ties. Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered an apology to Turkey during a phone conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two states started negotiations on a compensation deal for the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara incident.

Compensation talks with Israel are "positive" and a final deal is near, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. "Problems have been overcome to a considerable extent, but until the talks have been finalized, we will not announce the amount of compensation," he said in a statement on May 8.

IHH leader Yildirim believes Israel should not be negotiated with. "The best relations with Israel are zero relations," Yildirim said in a press conference. "They see this country as their own. An Israeli told me, 'We will kill you in Turkey,' which means they see Turkey as belonging to them."

Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israel's military intelligence during the time of the raid on the Mavi Marmara, has expressed his regrets. "What happened in Mavi Marmara was a big mistake." Amos Yadlin told Anadolu Agency that both Turkey and Israel made mistakes and he wished these events had not happened.

On the fourth anniversary of the raid on Friday, IHH will hold a march in Istanbul on Saturday, starting from the Sultan Ahmet district to the Sarayburnu district, where the Mavi Marmara ship launched from. "We will hold our accounting this day. No-one should suppose that we will step back from our case."

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