Turkey begins trial of Israeli military over Gaza ship killings

Tue Nov 6, 2012 11:55am GMT

By Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters chanting "Murderer Israel!" gathered outside an Istanbul court on Tuesday at the start of a trial of a group of former Israeli military commanders charged over the 2010 killing of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The trial in absentia of four of Israel's most senior retired commanders, including the head of the army, has been dismissed by Israel as a politically motivated "show trial" and threatens to further strain already fraught relations.

Ties between the Jewish state and what was once its only Muslim ally crumbled after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip.

Nine Turks were killed in clashes with activists on board.

The ensuing rift remains raw despite U.S. efforts to encourage a rapprochement between the two regional powers whose alliance was a mainstay of Washington's influence in an unstable region.

Israel and NATO member Turkey, which both border Syria, once shared intelligence information and conducted joint military exercises, cooperation which has since been cancelled.

Several hundred people, many wearing the Arab keffiyeh headscarf around their necks adorned with the Turkish and Palestinian flags, crowded outside the courthouse as witnesses and relatives of those killed in the raid began to arrive.

"Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine!" the crowd chanted as others held up a banner with the words: "What is the difference? Hitler = Israel."   Continued...

The cruise liner Mavi Marmara is under maintenance in a shipyard in Istanbul May 20, 2011. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
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