In another sign of the deteriorating ties between Israel and Turkey, the Turkish Defense Ministry informed the IDF over the weekend that it has decided not to participate in a naval search-and-rescue exercise planned for next month.

Called Reliant Mermaid, the annual exercise began 10 years ago and included the Israeli, Turkish and American navies. The objective of the exercise is to practice search-and-rescue operations and to familiarize each navy with international partners who also operate in the Mediterranean Sea.

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The exercise was held last summer despite the rift that erupted in Turkish-Israeli relations following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. But defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the IDF had expected Turkey would cancel the planned drill following the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla on May 31 that ended with nine dead Turkish nationals.

The officials said that the Israeli and American navies will still conduct the drill.

This is not the first time that the Turks have canceled joint drills with the IDF. Last year, Israel was removed from the Anatolian Eagle air force exercise, days before it was scheduled to begin. As a result, the US Air Force also dropped out.

Until Operation Cast Lead, the IAF frequently flew in Turkish air space and participated in several annual exercises with its Turkish counterpart.

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