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      Israel Rejects Turkish Demands to Announce End to Gaza Blockade

      Prime Minister's office confirms PM rejects last-minute precondition on normalization of ties between Israel and Turkey.
      By Tova Dvorin
      First Publish: 2/12/2014, 7:24 PM

      Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
      Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
      AFP photo

      Senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) confirmed Wednesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has rejected Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's demands to provide a written statement saying the Israeli "siege" on Gaza has been lifted, according to Ha'aretz

      The officials stated that lifting the blockade, which was deemed legal by the UN in 2010, and providing a written statement to that effect are "not on the agenda."

      In reality, although Israel maintains restrictions on certain materials used in the manufacture of rockets used against Israeli civilians, humanitarian aid and commercial goods regularly pass through the crossing between Israel and the Islamist-controlled territory.

      Erdogan made the demands in a press conference Tuesday, claiming that the lack of a written protocol would torpedo the negotiation process to renew ties. 

      On Monday, it was reported that the Israeli government had decided that it would pay $20 million to the families of nine Turks killed on the Mavi Maramara. In return for the compensation, Turkey will agree to drop charges in its own courts against the IDF soldiers who participated in the raid on the Marmara.

      The Mavi Marmara, which claimed to international media to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," was the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's Gaza blockade on May 31, 2010.

      The ship defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.

      The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths.

      After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - whatsoever. 

      When Israel refused Turkey’s demands to apologize for raiding the Marmara, Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara.

      Under pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized last March to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the deaths of the activists.

      In the months that have passed since the Israeli apology, Erdogan has never let up on his verbal attacks of Israel. In one incident, he accused the Jewish state of being behind the military-backed ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.