Israel said to refuse Turkey’s request to airlift injured Palestinians from Gaza


Israel rejected a request from Turkey to send a plane to airlift Palestinians wounded in the recent Gaza border riots, Channel 10 news reported Wednesday, amid a deepening diplomatic rift between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Turkey sent the request to Israel via international medical organizations  asking for permission to send a plane to Ben Gurion Airport and take wounded Palestinians back to Turkey for treatment, the report said. It did not identify the organizations.

Senior sources told Channel 10 that after discussions between the Prime Minister’s Office and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the request was denied for political and security reasons.

According to the sources, Israel told the international organizations that it was willing to immediately accept Palestinian patients to Israeli hospitals or to allow the transfer of medical equipment and medicine to hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman arrives at the weekly government conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

“We made it clear that there was no need to fly injured Palestinians to Turkey and we offered alternative solutions,” the senior officials told Channel 10.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım confirmed to Al-Jazeera that his country had offered to evacuate the wounded from Gaza.

Litzman’s office later confirmed to Channel 10 that it offered to treat the wounded in Israel.

“We received a request from international health authorities to approve a Turkish flight to evacuate those being treated in Gaza to Turkey,” Litzman’s spokesperson told the channel. “After discussion with security agencies and Israeli experts, we decided to allow treatment in Israel and/or to send medical supplies to Gaza. But we did not permit the Turkish flight.”

It was not clear if any of the wounded from the riots had been transferred to Israel for treatment.

Emergency services and Palestinians carry a wounded protester during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabalia on May 14, 2018 (AFP/Mohamed Abed)

Last month Israel initially rejected a request to transfer two patients wounded in Gaza border clashes with IDF soldiers to the West Bank for treatment.

The High Court ultimately ruled that Israel had to allow the patients to receive treatment, but by that time both patients had required leg amputations because Gaza doctors did not have the proper equipment to treat the two.

Israel and Turkey are involved in an ongoing tit-for-tat dispute over Israel’s response to Monday’s violent protests at the Gaza border.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 62 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 more injured in clashes.

Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Eitan Na’eh (L) holds his luggage at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on May 16, 2018, as he prepares to leave Turkey. (AFP Photo/DHA/Dogan News Agency)

The IDF said Tuesday that at least 24 of the dead were members of terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Those two groups subsequently acknowledged 53 of their members were among the dead. Israel claims that Hamas is spurring the violence and using it for cover for attacks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan placed the blame squarely with Israel, accusing it of being a “terrorist state” that commits “genocide.” Turkey recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv and expelled Israel’s envoys to Ankara and Istanbul.

Israel responded in kind, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Erdogan “well understands terrorism and slaughter” and should not preach to Israel over military ethics.

Israel expelled Turkey’s consul-general in Jerusalem and, on Wednesday, summoned the country’s deputy ambassador in Tel Aviv for a dressing down.

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