World News

Turk prosecutor opens Israel probe over Gaza-group

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish state prosecutor has launched an investigation into allegations that Israel’s offensive in Gaza amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity, a human rights group said on Friday.

The investigation began after the Islamic-oriented human rights organization Mazlum-Der submitted a complaint over Israel’s 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip to punish the Islamist Hamas group for cross-border rocket attacks.

The complaint named 19 people including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, as well as Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The investigation was opened by an Ankara prosecutor, the group said. No one from the prosecutor’s office was immediately available to comment.

“We submitted the complaint against those who we could prove were in some way responsible for giving orders for the attack on Gaza,” Meryem Sari, a Mazlum-Der attorney who helped write the complaint, told Reuters.

“The complaint asks that Turkey be given the right to try the people mentioned,” said Sari.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country that belongs to NATO and has an official policy of secularism, has close military, commercial and diplomatic ties with Israel.

But ties have been strained since Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stormed off during a panel discussion in Davos after telling Shimon Peres on January 30 of “you know very well how to kill.”

Turkey helped negotiate a Hamas-led ceasefire that ended the rocket attacks that Israel said forced it to launch the incursion into Gaza in December.

Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Jon Boyle