Israel wants bodies returned from Gaza before Turkey deal

Israel wants bodies returned from Gaza before Turkey deal
2 min read
11 February, 2016
The corpses of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza in the 2014 war and retained by Hamas must be returned before Turkish-Israeli relations can normalise, Israel's defence minister has said.
The Israeli defence minister is noted for his hard-line position on Israel-Turkey relations [Getty]
Any reconciliation agreement with Turkey must include the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has said.

Yaalon's comments come after talks between Israel and Turkey were held in Geneva on Wednesday over reconciliation between the two states.

The Israeli defence minister is noted for his hard-line position regarding Tel Aviv-Ankara relations and has reportedly personally added a number of conditions to the negotiations, including the expulsion of Hamas members from Turkey.

Turkish-Israeli relations can only normalise when the bodies of Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul and Lieutenant Hadar Goldin are returned, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Yaalon saying.
Yaalon had earlier rejected outright the lifting of the Gaza naval blockade and provision of direct Turkish marimtime access


The two Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza during Israel's offensive in 2014.

Turkey has demanded the lifting of the crippling blockade on Gaza and the ability for its vessels to directly access the Gaza coastline.

But Yaalon had earlier rejected outright the lifting of the Gaza naval blockade and provision of direct Turkish marimtime access to the area as part of reconciliation terms.

Both sides have finalised almost all the details of the reconciliation agreement, apart from Yaalon's demand, a senior Israeli official said.

Meanwhile, talks between the two countries have included the mending of relations as well as energy cooperation but no deal has been reached, a Turkish ruling party official said.

"We have information that the talks are going well but unless we see practical implications of the talks, we cannot say it's a done deal," Omer Celik, a spokesman for Turkey's ruling AK Party, said in Ankara.

Israel-Turkey relations were broken following the 2010 Mavi Marmara attack, in which Israeli forces killed 10 Turkish activists attempting to break the Gaza blockade.

Relations between the two countries further deteriorated following harsh criticism from Turkish President Erdogan regarding Israeli conduct during the 2014 Gaza war.

In January this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Tel Aviv to reconcile with Ankara.

"Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region. And we too must accept that we need Israel. This is a reality in the region," Erdogan said.

Israeli Defence Minister Yaalon has proven to be the one of the most outspoken opponents of attempts at normalising ties with Turkey, recently accusing Ankara of buying oil from the Islamic State group and funding the militants with Turkish money.