Turkey Extends Travel Ban to Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -

While other countries were giving their airlines the green light to resume flights to Israel on Thursday, Turkey decided to do the opposite, extending its ban until July 31.

An estimated close to 4,000 Israelis were still stranded in Turkey on Thursday, as a result. Aviation authorities also refused to permit El Al to land at its airports to airlift out its citizens.

Turkish Airlines was offering passengers one night free in a four star hotel in Istanbul, including food and transportation to and from the airport. But that will not cover their expenses until July 31.

Turkey and Israel have yet to normalize relations since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, and the current fighting in Gaza has presumably destroyed any hope for a settlement in the near future, as Turkey blames Israel for civilian casualties in the Hamas stronghold.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Thursday that he will press for Israel to be tried at an international criminal court if it continues its assault on Gaza.

“If Israel continues with this attitude, it will definitely be tried at international courts,” Erdogan, who is campaigning for a presidential election on Aug. 10, told a rally of supporters in the southern port city of Mersin.

“We will see this happen and Turkey will struggle for this,” he told the cheering crowd.

Anti-Israel sentiment appears to be spreading, as 111 Turkish universities have decided to cut off relations with Israeli universities, the numbers swelling in recent days, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Many Turkish municipalities have joined a boycott of Israeli products and companies linked to Israel, according to a Turkish media report.
Coca-Cola has been targeted because of U.S. support for Israel.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Turkey is working with international partners to negotiate both a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict and access for humanitarian aid, the Turkish foreign minister said on Thursday.

“The U.S., Turkey, Qatar and Egypt have been working for the last five days to ensure an immediate ceasefire,” Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster Ahaber on Thursday, adding Turkey was in constant contact with Palestinian leaders.

Also, the German airline Lufthansa said Thursday it had extended by 24 hours the suspension of its flights to and from Tel Aviv.