A Turkish court issued arrest warrants on Monday for four former IDF commanders, including former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, in connection with the May 2010 IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara blockade-running ship in which nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed after attacking IDF naval commandos.
A tenth died recently of his wounds.
The move came after months of negotiations between Turkey and Israel to end a diplomatic crisis over the commando raid on the Turkish ship challenging Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, run by Hamas.
The former Israeli commanders were being tried in absentia at the Istanbul 7th Court of Serious Crimes, reported the Hurriyet Daily News, adding that Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying “the judiciary process is ongoing” and “the ruling is being examined by law experts.”
The court decided to request that Interpol issue a Red Notice for the arrest of Ashkenazi, along with former Navy chief V.-Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, ex-Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, and former Air Force intel chief Avishai Levi.
Yadlin, in a text message to Reuters, shrugged off the court’s decision. “I won’t be visiting Turkey, just like I won’t be visiting Syria, Iran or North Korea,” he said.
The court originally charged the four in May 2012, but it was believed that the international lawsuits would be dropped as part of ongoing reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Israel.
Turkish prosecutors have asked that the four Israelis get life sentences for their roles in the raid.
Israel has dismissed the proceedings as a political show trial. An unnamed Israeli official told AFP that the court decision is a “ridiculous provocation.”
“If this is the message that the Turks want to send to Israel, it was perfectly well understood,” he said.
A former Israeli official, who had been involved in efforts to reach a compensation deal, said the latest Turkish legal move would make achieving an agreement more difficult.
Israel’s military intervention on the Mavi Marmara in 2010 took Turkey by surprise, Oguz Celikkol, Turkey’s ambassador to Israel at the time, told Hurriyet on Monday.
“We knew the crisis was coming, but we did not foresee that it would result like that,” he was quoted as saying.
“Obviously, we were not expecting Israel to let the humanitarian aid reach Gaza, but we thought the intervention method would be different.”
While he says that diplomatic relations will not improve without a solution to the “Palestinian problem,” there is no reason there should not be a normalization of relations between the two countries, Celikkol said.
“But normalization of relations does not mean that Turkey will give up its support for the Palestinians,” he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.