Official: No Israeli apology to Turkey over raid

Israel will not apologize to Turkey over a raid on a Gaza-bound protest aid ship last year in which nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed, Israel's foreign minister said Wednesday.

On May 31 last year, Israeli commandos sent to stop a flotilla of protest ships from reaching Gaza clashed with activists armed with knives, clubs and iron rods aboard a Turkish vessel as the Israelis tried to take over the ship. Israel says soldiers acted in self defense after the activists assaulted them on deck, while the activists say they were defending themselves from an Israeli attack.

The flotilla was trying to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza. Activists charged that Israel was depriving Gaza's Palestinians of vital supplies. Israel said the blockade was necessary to keep weapons away from Gaza's Hamas rulers, calling the flotilla a political provocation.

Ties between Israel and Turkey, once close allies, deteriorated dramatically over the bloody raid. Each side blamed the other. Since then, Turkey has also moved closer to Israel's arch-enemy Iran, further souring relations.

Turkey initially said it would reconcile with Israel only if it apologizes and compensates the families of those killed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel's Channel 2 TV Wednesday night that the decision to refuse to apologize sends a strong message to Turkey. "It is a just and wise position. A message of weakness is dangerous to Israel at this time," Lieberman said.

An Israeli official added that Israel had an apology ready as well as a compensation package, but then the Turks added more demands. One was shelving a U.N. investigation into the affair, believed to favor Israel's version of events.


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