Israel set to shell out 'tens of millions' in compensation for Turkey flotilla deaths
File picture shows an undated handout image taken from the Free Gaza Movement website on May 28, 2010 of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara taking part in the "Freedom Flotilla" heading towards the Gaza Strip. (AFP PHOTO / FREE GAZA MOVEMENT)
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Israel will pay Turkey “tens of millions of dollars” to compensate the families of activists killed in the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid as part of a deal to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries, a Turkish sourcetold Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The unnamed source said the amount of the blood money to be transferred to the families of nine activists shot dead when Israeli troops boarded their vessel has yet to be determined, but will be in the tens of millions, according to the report published Tuesday.
But, the source added, the proceedings to restore ties may be hampered by Israel’s demands that Turkey drops all charges against the troops involved in the flotilla massacre. The source noted that Turkey cannot legally force the families of the victims to drop the charges.
“The only thing is to try to persuade their families to withdraw their claims, but there is no way to force them to do so,” Haaretz quoted the source as saying.
Israel and Turkey enjoyed warm relations until the May 2010 raid on the six-ship flotilla which was en route to deliver humanitarian supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, from helicopters and speedboats before opening fire on them.
The Jewish state claimed that the attack was an act of as self-defense after activists used sticks and knives to prevent the commandos from hijacking their vessel, which was in international waters.
Troops shot some of the activists at point-blank range, while others were shot from behind as they attempted to flee.
Israel had refused to apologize for the attack until last week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For his part, Erdogan accepted the apology.
The two countries are now in talks to restore relations. Ynet reported Tuesday that Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said his country’s normalization with Israel hangs on three conditions: that the Jewish state apologizes for the massacre, that it offer compensation, and that it end the crippling blockade of Gaza.
Following the diplomatic rift three years ago, Erdogan sought recognition as a champion of the Palestinian cause, and made statements to that effect.
The Turkish premier last November described Israel as a “terrorist state” and accused it of “ethnic cleansing” during the eight-day Israeli assault on Gaza that month.
And earlier this month he said Zionism was “a crime against humanity,” but has now backtracked on the remark as he attempts to repair the strained relations with his former ally.
Erdogan, who assumed office in 2003, travelled to Jerusalem and met with then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 1 May 2005. Sharon served as defense minister during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which caused an estimated 20,000 deaths, earning him the designation the “Butcher of Beirut.”
More than three years later Erdogan welcomed then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Ankara. Olmert’s forces had invaded Lebanon in July 2006 which killed over 1,200 people. Five days after their meeting in Turkey, Olmert launched the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, killing over 1,400 people.
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