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Turkish Court Orders Israeli Commanders Arrested


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court on Monday ordered the arrests of four former Israeli military commanders being tried in absentia over the killing of nine people aboard a Turkish aid ship that tried to break a Gaza blockade in 2010, Turkey's state-run news agency reported.

The court in Istanbul ruled that authorities must seek an international warrant for Israel's former military chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and three other former commanders, the Anadolu Agency reported. Trial was then adjourned until Dec. 9.

Turkish prosecutors are seeking life in prison for the officers. It was unlikely however, that Israel would ever extradite the four to Turkey.

The court's decision, meanwhile, comes despite signs that Turkey and Israel could be close to ending a four-year rift over the deaths.

Turkish officials have said that the two countries are close to sealing a reconciliation pact, while in March, Israel agreed to ease its blockade to allow building materials into the Gaza Strip for the construction of a Turkish hospital.

The reconciliation deal would lead to compensation for the families of the victims and for court cases against Israel over the raid to be dropped.

Ties between Turkey and Israel broke down after the Israeli raid which killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American aboard the vessel Mavi Marmara. The ship was part of an international flotilla trying to break the blockade, which Israel says it imposed in 2007 to keep Palestinian militants from bringing weapons into Gaza.

Israel insisted that its soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists when they boarded the ship. Under a U.S.-brokered deal last year, Israel apologized to Turkey and agreed to pay compensation.

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