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Turkey says suspending all trade with Israel over Gaza war

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Turkey said Thursday it was suspending all trade with Israel until it allows aid to enter Gaza unhindered during its offensive against Hamas militants in the territory, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Exports and imports to and from Israel have been suspended,” the trade ministry said in a statement, adding: “Turkey will apply these new measures… until the Israeli government authorizes an uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz had earlier on Thursday accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of breaking agreements between the two countries by blocking Israeli exports and imports.

The move is the latest incident degrading relations after Turkey, one of the few Muslim-majority nations to recognize Israel, restricted exports to the country in April.

The Turkish government officially imposed trade restrictions on Israel on April 9, a move seen as a response to both public outcry and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

However, the effectiveness and thoroughness of these restrictions have been questioned.

The measures, taken after six months of destruction in Gaza, were seen by many as overdue, given the significant loss of life and general public outrage in Turkey at Israel’s actions.

The Gaza Strip is suffering a humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s war against Hamas that has been raging since October 7, with the United Nations and aid agencies warning of impending famine.

The war started with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel estimates that 129 captives seized by militants during their attack remain in Gaza. The military says 34 of them are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 34,596 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, which has exacerbated anti-Israel sentiment in Turkey and led to calls for a halt to trade with Tel Aviv.

In 2023 bilateral trade amounted to $5.42 billion, a decrease from $7 billion in 2022, but still significant.

This ongoing trade relationship has sparked criticism within Turkey, particularly from those who see it as a contradiction to President Erdoğan’s vocal support for Palestinian rights.

The trade between Turkey and Israel, which has partly been conducted by individuals close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan despite his anti-Israel rhetoric, was first exposed by investigative journalist Metin Cihan in late November. Since then, Cihan has been reporting on trade between the two countries, relying on official statistics and websites on maritime traffic, all of which are publicly available.

Erdoğan, who has long marketed himself in the Muslim world as a champion of Palestinian rights and a fierce critic of Israel, has repeatedly accused Israel of being a “terrorist state” and of committing “genocide” due to Israel’s ongoing attacks on the Palestinian enclave in Gaza.

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