Turkish PM calls Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla ship a 'massacre'
Four Turkish citizens were confirmed slain by commandos in an Israeli raid Monday on a relief flotilla ship, bound for the Gaza Strip.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's prime minister declared Tuesday that Israel had carried out a "bloody massacre" by killing nine people on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship and said the two countries had reached a turning point in their long-standing alliance.
Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel immediately after the raid, scrapped three joint military exercises and called the U.N. Security Council to an emergency meeting that demanded an impartial investigation.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told lawmakers in the Parliament that the boarding of the Mediterranean flotilla was an attack "on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace."
"Today is a turning point in history. Nothing will be same again," Erdogan said.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said four Turkish citizens were confirmed slain by Israeli commandos and another five were also believed to be Turks, although Israeli authorities were still trying to confirm their nationalities.
"This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse," Erdogan said, demanding that Israel immediately halt its "inhumane" blockade of Gaza.
The flotilla was the ninth attempt by sea to breach the three-year-old blockade Israel and Egypt imposed after the militant Hamas group violently seized the Gaza Strip in 2007, home to 1.5 million Palestinians. Israel allowed five seaborne aid shipments to get through but snapped the blockade shut after its 2009 war in Gaza.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Turkey would launch legal action at a Turkish court against Israel over the incident.
Erdogan said the Israeli raid proved "how good they are at killing people."
"Israel in no way can legitimize this murder, it cannot wash its hands of this blood," Erdogan said.
Erdogan said Turkey would continue to support the Palestinian people.
"We will not turn our back on Palestine, Palestinians and Gaza," Erdogan said.
"No one should test Turkey's patience," he added. "Turkey's hostility is as strong as its friendship is valuable."
He urged Israelis to question the actions of their government.
"It is damaging your country's image by conducting banditry and piracy," Erdogan said. "It is damaging interests of Israel and your peace and safety. It is the Israeli people who must stop the Israeli government in the first place."
He said Israel cannot face the international community without expressing "regret."
"Israel cannot ensure its security by drawing the hatred of the entire world," the prime minister declared.
Turkey sent three planes to bring back some 20 Turks wounded during clashes that broke out when Israeli commandos raided the Turkish vessel. Erdogan said he had snubbed an Israeli offer to fly back the Turkish wounded.
The nationalities of the dead have not been released yet.
Turkey has been increasingly assertive diplomatically in the Middle East. It has also accused Israel of abandoning Turkish-mediated talks with Syria, which demands the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Golan Heights as a condition for peace.