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Israel deports 7 Turks over alleged Hamas ties

Airport authorities turn away group of journalists, activists; Ankara summons Israeli diplomat for explanation

Turkish journalist Halime Kökçe speaks to local media at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on June 26, 2015 after being denied entry to Israel. (Screen grab: YouTube).
Turkish journalist Halime Kökçe speaks to local media at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on June 26, 2015 after being denied entry to Israel. (Screen grab: YouTube).

Several Turkish citizens were deported from Israel over alleged ties with Hamas after being detained at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday .

The group of nine Turkish nationals, some of them journalists, were questioned by the Shin Bet security agency for over six hours upon their arrival to Israel. The Shin Bet said it established a link between the visitors and Hamas and barred seven of them from entering the Jewish state, Hebrew media reports said.

Turkey claimed the group arrived in Israel to participate in a Ramadan fast-breaking meal with Palestinians in Jerusalem.

A report in the Ynet news website said the delegation was also linked to the Turkish NGO IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which sponsored the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla to the Gaza Strip. Israel considers IHH a terrorist organization.

According to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, the group included the editor-in-chief of Ülke, two reporters from state-run TRT News, a reporter for the Daily Star and four activists. A TRT cameraman and one of its reporters were allowed into the country.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry condemned the detention and deportation of its citizens and summoned Amira Oron, the chargé d’affaires at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara to give an explanation of the incident it called “unacceptable under any circumstances.”

In its statement, the ministry also noted that all members of the delegation had valid entry visas to Israel.

The incident came on the heels of Turkey’s announcement that its officials were holding talks with Israel in a bid to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries just two weeks after its ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) — co-founded by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is known for his angry outbursts at the Jewish state — lost its majority in parliament.

AFP contributed to this report.

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