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Turkish official claims Israel agrees to lift Gaza blockade

Erdogan aide says naval route between Turkish Cyprus, Strip will be opened, rapprochement deal with Israel nearly complete; no Israeli confirmation

IDF naval forces stopping Gaza-bound flotilla aid ships from Turkey in 2010. (photo credit: Moti Milrod/Pool/Flash90)
IDF naval forces stopping Gaza-bound flotilla aid ships from Turkey in 2010. (photo credit: Moti Milrod/Pool/Flash90)

A senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that Israel has agreed to fully lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip, as part of a reconciliation agreement between Jerusalem and Ankara reportedly set to be finalized in the coming weeks.

The adviser, Arshad Hormuz, told a Hamas-run media outlet in Gaza that Israel has also agreed to the opening of a naval route between Turkish Cyprus and Gaza. Hamas, which is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization, has had control of Gaza since a bloody 2007 coup.

Hormuz added that only “technical details” remained to be settled as part of the upcoming agreement, according to Israel’s Ynet news website.

There was no confirmation of the report from Israel. Israel maintains a security blockade of Gaza to prevent Hamas, which avowedly seeks to destroy the Jewish state, from importing weaponry for use against Israel.

Earlier this week, Erdogan’s spokesman said the normalization of ties between Israel and Turkey hinges on reaching an agreement over humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey insists on the “re-establishment of conditions for humanitarian aid to Gaza” and supports an independent state of Palestine “whose capital is East Jerusalem.”

His remarks contrasted with a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement last week which suggested an agreement would be finalized “very soon,” following a meeting between representatives from both countries in London.

The accord would come almost six years after a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship attempting to breach the blockade, in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed during a melee aboard the vessel. The incident led to a nosedive in already tense relations between the two countries. Turkey demanded an immediate apology, compensation for the victims’ families and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza before normal relations could resume.

Israel refused and only issued an official apology some three years later. Talks on compensation have reached advanced stages, according to reports, but one of the main hurdles has been the lifting of the Israeli blockade.

Talks have also reportedly gotten hung up over Israeli demands for a commitment from Turkey to end tacit support for Hamas.

After several years of chilly ties and acrimonious accusations from both sides, officials met in December in secret talks to seek a rapprochement, with another round of high-level talks taking place in February in Geneva.

Simha Dimri (L), 60, Yonathan Suher (C), 40, and Avraham Goldman (R), 69, the three Israelis who were killed in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, March 19, 2016. (Photos courtesy of the families/Facebook via JTA)
Simha Dimri (L), 60, Yonathan Suher (C), 40, and Avraham Goldman (R), 69, the three Israelis who were killed in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, March 19, 2016. (Photos courtesy of the families/Facebook via JTA)

A bombing last month in Istanbul that left three Israelis dead also led to cooperation between the countries and high-level contacts between leaders in Ankara and Jerusalem for the first time in years.

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