Turkey halts trade with Israel over ‘humanitarian tragedy’ in Gaza

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in September 2023, just weeks before the outbreak of war.

Turkey suspended all trade with Israel following its Gaza offensive, citing the “worsening humanitarian tragedy” in the Gaza Strip.

Turkey’s Commerce Ministry said the measures would be in place until Israel allows an “uninterrupted and sufficient flow” of aid to Gaza.

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

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

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

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

Turkish Commerce Minister Omer Bolat criticized Israel’s “intransigent attitude” towards a ceasefire, as well as the humanitarian situation in the southern Gaza town of Rafah: ” Turkey has suspended all exports and imports with Israel until a permanent ceasefire is established and aid to Gaza is permitted without any interruption. »

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

In 2010, Turkey severed diplomatic ties with Israel after ten Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed in clashes with Israeli commandos who had boarded a Turkish ship attempting to break Israel’s maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Relations were restored in 2016, but the two countries expelled their 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 vocal in his criticism of Israel since Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel on October 7 last year.

He has repeatedly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, comparing him to Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin and calling him “the butcher of Gaza.”

Mr Netanyahu said the Turkish leader was the last person capable of preaching morality to Israel. In March, he said President Erdogan “supports Hamas mass murderers and rapists, denies the Armenian genocide (and) massacres Kurds in his own country.”

Image source, EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Legend, Earlier this week, Israel reopened the Erez crossing in northern Gaza to aid trucks.

The Turkish leader has been under domestic political pressure for months to announce measures against Israel, from his opponents and his allies.

His ruling AK party suffered its worst defeat in two decades in local elections in late March, and many religious voters backed the Islamist New Welfare party, which had called for tough measures against Israel.

Shortly after the vote, Turkey imposed restrictions on 54 products exported to Israel, from iron and steel to jet fuel, pesticides and construction equipment.

Ankara’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday the action was now extended to all exports and imports. Israel was Turkey’s 13th export market in 2023, receiving 2.1% of Turkish exports last year. Turkey was Israel’s fifth largest source of imports last year.

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

On Thursday, the White House said a pier built by the U.S. military to facilitate the delivery of aid to the territory would be opened within days.

However, the UN says a maritime corridor can never replace land delivery and that land routes are the only way to deliver the bulk of needed supplies.

Earlier this week, Israel reopened the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip to humanitarian convoys, under pressure from its Western allies and following repeated calls from international humanitarian organizations.

However, Jordan said some of its humanitarian trucks were attacked by Israeli settlers before reaching the crossing point.

The UN’s top human rights official, Volker Türk, told the BBC there was a “plausible” case that Israel was using famine as a weapon of war in Gaza.

Israel denies limiting aid deliveries and has criticized 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 October 7, in which around 1,200 people were killed and 253 others taken hostage.

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

The mediators are awaiting a response from Hamas to the latest proposal.

This would involve a 40-day ceasefire and the release of more than 30 Israeli hostages in exchange for many more Palestinian prisoners.

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