Turks rally against Israeli attack

Turks rally against Israeli attack

Protesters denounced the raid on Gaza aid ships by Israel [Reuters]

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in the Turkish city of Istanbul to denounce Israel over its attack on the convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships that left at least 15 people dead.

Around 10,000 people marched from the Israeli consulate in Istanbul towards the city’s main square on Monday, shouting slogans and waving banners saying “Killer Israel”.

Protests also took place in Ankara, the capital.

A Turkish charity has said most of those killed in the raid on six ships in international waters were Turkish nationals.

Earlier on Monday protesters attempted to storm the Israeli consulate, scaling over the compound’s walls, but were blocked from going further by police.

Israel has advised its citizens to avoid travel to Turkey and instructed those already there to keep a low profile and avoid crowded downtown areas.

Emergency UN meeting

Turkey’s foreign ministry has condemned the Israeli raid, and recalled its ambassador to Israel.

It has also called for an emergency United Nations meeting over the incident, an unnamed diplomat has said.

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“We are preparing to call for a meeting of the UN Security Council on the issue,” the diplomat said without explaining what action Ankara would demand against Israel.

Turkey’s deputy prime minister added that the nation would be cancelling three joint military exercises and recalling a youth soccer team from Israel.

Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Istanbul, said relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated since the Gaza war.

“Up til that point they had … a constructive military alliance and for many years they saw the issue of domestic terrorism as one they had to share information about.

“But since the Gaza war relations have nose-dived and it would be absolutely fair to say that this is the lowest point,” she said.

International condemnation

Israeli forces stormed the so-called Freedom Flotilla, which was carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists and tonnes of aid, while they were 65km off the Gaza coast in international waters.

The action has brought widespread condemnation, with the EU foreign affairs chief demanding that Israeli authorities mount a “full inquiry” into the attack.

Catherine Ashton also reiterated a longstanding demand for “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza,” a spokesman said.

France and the UN’s Mideast envoy have also condemned the attack, while Greece suspended a military exercise with Israel and postponed a visit by Israel’s air force chief.

More protests denouncing the action are planned in London later on Monday.

The some 700 activists on board the flotilla included people from many different countries, including United States, Britain, Australia, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, Algeria, Serbia, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Kuwait.

The majority were Turkish.

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