Turkey halts trade with Israel over Gaza ‘tragedy’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in September 2023, just weeks before the outbreak of war
By Aoife Walsh
BBC News

Turkey has suspended all trade with Israel over its offensive in Gaza, citing the “worsening humanitarian tragedy” in the strip.

The Turkish trade ministry said the measures would be in place until Israel allowed an “uninterrupted and sufficient flow” of aid into Gaza.

Trade between the two countries was worth almost $7bn (£5.6bn) last year.

Israel’s foreign minister accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of acting like a “dictator”.

Israel Katz said on X that Mr Erdogan was “disregarding the interests of the Turkish people and businessmen and ignoring international trade agreements”.

He added that he had instructed the foreign ministry to find alternatives for trade with Turkey, with a focus on local production and imports from other countries.

In a statement, Turkey said the trade suspension covered “all products”.

“Turkey will strictly and decisively implement these new measures until the Israeli government allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

In 1949, Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to recognise Israel. But relations have worsened in recent decades.

In 2010, Turkey broke off diplomatic ties with Israel after 10 pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed in clashes with Israeli commandos who boarded a Turkish-owned ship trying to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Relations were restored in 2016, but both countries expelled each other’s top diplomats two years later in a dispute over Israel’s killing of Palestinians amid protests on the Gaza-Israel border.

Mr Erdogan has become increasingly strident in his criticism of Israel since the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October last year.

In January, he said the military offensive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched in response was “not any less than what Hitler did”.

Mr Netanyahu responded: “Erdogan, who commits genocide against the Kurds, who holds a world record for imprisoning journalists who oppose his rule, is the last person who can preach morality to us”.

Israel has come under increasing criticism for conditions in the Gaza Strip. A UN-backed assessment said last month that 1.1 million people were facing catastrophic hunger and that famine was imminent in northern Gaza by May.

On Thursday, the White House said a pier built by the US military to facilitate the flow of aid into the territory would be open within days.

Israel denies limiting aid deliveries and has blamed the UN for failing to distribute it to those in need inside Gaza.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 253 others were taken hostage.

More than 34,500 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

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