HeronIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Turkey is suspending a $180 million UAV contract with Israel’s Elbit company and instead is using its own vehicles to gather intelligence, according to the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman,

Israel has withdrawn officers,engineers and instructors who were training Turkish counterparts on Elbit’s Heron unmanned aircraft after Turkey’s IHH terror activists brutally assaulted Israeli Navy commandos who were trying to stop their ship from reaching Hamas-controlled Gaza on May 31.

Zaman reported that the Turkish Baykar company already is using its UAVs to gather intelligence on Kurds opposed to the government in Ankara.

The contract for Herons has been problematic since the Operation Cast Lead, when Turkey began abandoning its friendship with Israel and warmed up to the Syrian-Iranian-Hizbullah-Hamas axis. Turkey has charged that Elbit missed several deadlines on delivering Heron UAVs, but the company has claimed that Turkish parts for the Herons did not meet standards.

The government or Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan already has canceled an Elbit contract and tender worth $78 million and warned that there would be no more future contracts if Israel does not meet Turkish demands to solve the current diplomatic crisis.

An Israeli defense official responded to Globes Monday that “both the Ministry of Defense and the Turkish customer should benefit from the deal or be hurt by its cancellation." He added that most of the Heron project already has been completed and paid for.

After the flotilla crisis broke out, most analysts speculated that the deal with Elbit, as well as general trade with Turkey, would not be affected. So far, they have been wrong.

Turkish businessmen have cancelled meetings with Israelis, who in turn have cut back traveling to what generally is one of the most popular and cheapest tourist sites outside of Israel.

Israeli supermarkets this week began taking Turkish products off their shelves as a response to Turkish accusations that Israel is guilty for killing the Turkish terror activists who attacked the IDF.

However, Israel-Turkey Business Council chairman Menashe Carmon stated two weeks ago, "There is a strong interest to preserve commercial relations and they will persevere. What happened will, naturally, have a detrimental effect, but it's too early to say how much damage has been caused. I believe it will turn out to be less severe than we think."