Turkish court seeks military arrests of Israelis over ship killings

ISTANBUL Mon May 26, 2014 9:45am EDT

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court has issued arrest warrants on Monday for four former Israeli military commanders who are on trial in absentia over the 2010 killing of nine Turks on a Gaza-bound aid ship, Turkish media reports said.

The move came after months of negotiations between Turkey and Israel to end a diplomatic crisis over the Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship challenging Israel's naval blockade of Palestinian-run Gaza Strip in 2010.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American died during the operation and a Turkish man, Suleyman Ugur Soylemez, died in hospital on Friday night after four years in a coma since the raid.

The court ordered the arrest of former Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, ex-Navy Commander Eliezer Marom, ex-Air Force Commander Amos Yadlin and ex-head of Air Force intelligence head Avishay Levi, the newspaper Hurriyet said on its website.

Turkish prosecutors have already sought multiple life sentences for the now-retired Israeli officers over their involvement in the killings. Among the charges listed in the 144-page indictment are "inciting murder through cruelty or torture" and "inciting injury with firearms".

Although the indictment was handed up in 2012, no arrest warrants were issued then. The court said on Monday it would seek the issue of Interpol 'red notices' for the arrest of the four former generals.

A Turkish relief agency said on Thursday it would oppose what it said was an imminent Israeli offer to pay compensation in return for dropping lawsuits over the attack.

In a rapprochement brokered by Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan last year and pledged compensation to the bereaved or hurt.

Turkey was once Israel's closest regional ally, although their relationship had deteriorated before the raid. Last month, Erdogan said the two were days or weeks away from an agreement.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall, Larry King)

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