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Turkey imposes trade restrictions on Israel over Gaza war

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Turkey said it would impose trade restrictions on Israel starting Tuesday over the war in Gaza, covering a range of products including cement and steel and iron construction materials.

The new measures come a day after Turkey said Israel had blocked its attempt to airdrop aid to Gaza.

“This decision will remain in place until Israel declares a ceasefire immediately and allows adequate and uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” the trade ministry announced on social media.

It attached a list of 54 products slated for export restrictions.

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Monday vowed reprisals against Israel for blocking Turkey’s air force from airdropping aid to Gaza, saying they would be implemented “step by step” and “without delay”.

The export measures were approved by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he added.

Turkey has become one of the harshest critics of Israel’s war on Gaza, with Erdogan branding Israel a “terrorist state”.

His salvoes against Israel include allegations it is committing “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza in its response to Hamas militants’ unprecedented October 7 attack.

The assault killed 1,170 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli figures, while Israel’s military campaign has killed at least 33,207 people in Gaza according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Erdogan has defended Hamas — considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and the European Union — as “a liberation group”.

Turkey’s trade action against Israel follows domestic attacks against the government for failing to cut off trade sooner.

On Saturday, Turkish police violently detained a small group of pro-Palestinian protesters who took to Istanbul’s central Taksim square to urge the government to cut trade ties.

Images from the scene showed one officer slapping a demonstrator.

The harsh police response drew criticism from the opposition CHP party, whose leader Ozgur Ozel called it “a clear violation of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the constitution”.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said an investigation had been opened into the heavy-handed police response to the protest, and two police officers were suspended from duty.

Government under pressure

The war in Gaza has put an end to a gradual thawing in Turkish-Israeli relations that culminated with the reappointment of ambassadors in 2022.

Erdogan has recalled Ankara’s envoy to Tel Aviv and pushed for Israeli commanders and political leaders to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The Turkish leader also often attacked Israel on the campaign trail ahead of local elections held on March 31.

His party nevertheless suffered a historic defeat, losing control of many cities, especially to the Islam-based Yeniden Refah (New Welfare) Party.

The party, which won seats in the Turkish parliament last year after allying with Erdogan’s AKP, fielded its own candidates in the March elections, with its leader Fatih Erbakan attacking Erdogan for maintaining Turkish trade with Israel despite the war in Gaza.

“The result of this election was decided by the behaviour of those who continued to trade freely with Israel and the Zionist murderers,” Erbakan said on election night.

Turkey’s exports to Israel stood at $5.43 billion last year, down from $7.03 billion in 2022, according to the Turkish Exporters’ Union and statistics agency Turkstat.

Agence France-Presse

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