Israel to pay Turkey $20 million in compensation after six-year rift


Turkish lawmakers on Wednesday submitted to parliament a settlement deal with Israel that would see Israel pay Ankara $20 million within 25 days in return for Turkey dropping outstanding legal claims, ending a six-year rift.

Relations between the two countries crumbled after Israeli marines stormed a Turkish ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turks on board.

Israel had already offered its apologies for the raid. Both countries are to appoint ambassadors, and Turkey is to pass legislation indemnifying Israeli soldiers as part of an agreement partly driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals.

Israel, Turkey sign reconciliation deal


The foreign ministries of Israel and Turkey simultaneously signed a reconciliation agreement on Tuesday, six years after relations were cut off.

The director of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, signed the agreement in Jerusalem. The identical agreement was signed in Ankara by Turkey’s undersecretary for foreign affairs, Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu, who had led his country’s negotiating team.

The agreement had been formally announced a day earlier.

“Israel has made an important strategic agreement in terms of security, regional stability and the Israeli economy,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday afternoon in Rome, where he had briefed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the agreement.

Relations between Israel and Turkey broke down in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, when Israeli commandos boarded and killed nine Turkish citizens in clashes on a boat attempting to break Israel’s Gaza blockade.

Israel’s Security Cabinet is expected to approve the agreement when it votes on Wednesday even though Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have said they would vote against it.

Under the deal, Israel will create a $20 million humanitarian fund as compensation to the families of the Mavi Marmara victims, which would not be released until Turkey passes legislation closing claims against the Israeli military for the deaths. Netanyahu has apologized for the deaths, another Turkish condition for the resumption of diplomatic ties.

Turkey withdrew its demand that Israel halt its Gaza blockade, but Israel will allow Turkey to establish building projects in Gaza with the building materials entering Gaza through Israel’s Ashdod Port. The building projects reportedly include a hospital, power station and desalinization plant.

Turkey also has agreed to assist in repatriating two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers being held by Hamas in Gaza.

 

Second car bomb in a month kills 37 in Turkish capital, Ankara


A car bomb tore through a crowded transport hub in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Sunday, killing at least 37 people and wounding 125 in the second such attack in the administrative heart of the city in under a month.

The blast, which could be heard several kilometres away, sent burning debris showering down over an area a few hundred metres (yards) from the Justice and Interior Ministries, a top courthouse, and the former office of the prime minister.

“These attacks, which threaten our country's integrity and our nation's unity and solidarity, do not weaken our resolve in fighting terrorism but bolster our determination,” President Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.

Two senior security officials told Reuters the first findings suggested that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy, or an affiliated group, was responsible.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Interior Minister Efkan Ala said the name of the group behind the attack would likely be announced on Monday after initial investigations were completed.

“Tonight, civilian citizens waiting at a bus stop were targeted in a terrorist attack with a bomb-laden car,” Ala told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the head of the intelligence agency and security chiefs.

“Significant findings have been made, but the organisation behind this will be announced once the investigation has been finalised,” he said.

NATO member Turkey faces multiple security threats. As part of a U.S.-led coalition, it is fighting Islamic State in neighbouring Syria and Iraq. It is also battling PKK militants in its southeast, where a 2-1/2-year ceasefire collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s.

The bombing came two days after the U.S. Embassy issued a warning that there was information regarding a potential attack on government buildings in the Bahcelievler area of Ankara, just a few km (miles) away from the blast site.

The United States condemned the attack, saying in a White House National Security Council statement: “This horrific act is only the most recent of many terrorist attacks perpetrated against the Turkish people. The United States stands together with Turkey, a NATO ally and valued partner, as we confront the scourge of terrorism.”

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 30 of those killed had died at the scene, while the four others died in hospital. At least one or two of the dead were attackers, he said, and 19 of the 125 wounded were in critical condition.

PELLETS AND NAILS

One of the security officials said the car used in the attack was a BMW driven from Viransehir, a town in the largely Kurdish southeast, and that the PKK and the affiliated Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) appeared to be responsible.

TAK claimed responsibility for the previous car bombing, just a few blocks away, on Feb. 17. That attack targeted a military bus as it waited at traffic lights, and killed 29 people, most of them soldiers, near the military headquarters, parliament and other key government institutions.

A police source said there appeared to have been two attackers, one a man and the other a woman, whose severed hand was found 300 metres from the blast site.

The explosives were the same kind as those used on Feb. 17 and the bomb had been reinforced with pellets and nails to cause maximum damage, the source told Reuters.

The pro-Kurdish opposition HDP, parliament's third largest party, which Erdogan accuses of being an extension of the PKK, condemned what it described as a “savage attack”.

State broadcaster TRT said the car had exploded at a major transport hub, hitting a bus carrying some 20 people near the central Guven Park and Kizilay Square at 6:43 p.m. (1643 GMT).

An Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Turkey after images from the bombing were shared on social media, broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV reported.

SECURITY THREATS

World leaders joined in condemning the bombing. British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “appalled,” while French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described it as a “cowardly attack”. Russian President Vladimir Putin described it as “inhuman,” his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

“There can be no justification for such heinous acts of violence. All NATO allies stand in solidarity with Turkey, resolute in our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country's ambassador to Turkey, James Larsen, was in a car at an intersection 20 metres from where the bomb was detonated.

“It really does bring it home to us that a terrorist attack can take place at any time, anywhere,” Bishop told Nine Network television while on a diplomatic trip to Fiji. “We utterly condemn these barbaric attacks on civilian populations.”

“It was an appalling thing for him to witness, being so close, but he's fine,” she added of the ambassador.

Turkey sees the unrest in its largely Kurdish southeast as deeply linked to events in northern Syria, where the Kurdish YPG militia has been seizing territory as it fights both Islamic State and rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Ankara fears those gains will stoke separatist ambitions among its own Kurds and has long argued that the YPG and PKK have close ideological and operational ties.

In its armed campaign in Turkey, the PKK has historically struck directly at the security forces and says that it does not target civilians. A direct claim of responsibility for Sunday's bombing would indicate a major tactical shift.

Islamic State militants have been blamed for at least four bomb attacks on Turkey since June 2015, including a suicide bombing that killed 10 German tourists in the historic heart of Istanbul in January. Local jihadist groups and leftist radicals have also staged attacks in Turkey in the past. 

Turkey blames Kurdish militants for Ankara bomb; vows reprisals


Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed a Syrian Kurdish militia fighter working with Kurdish militants inside Turkey for a suicide car bombing that killed 28 people in the capital Ankara, and he vowed retaliation in both Syria and Iraq.

A car laden with explosives detonated next to military buses as they waited at traffic lights near Turkey's armed forces' headquarters, parliament and government buildings in the administrative heart of Ankara late on Wednesday.

Davutoglu said the attack was clear evidence that the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia that has been supported by the United States in the fight against Islamic State in northern Syria, was a terrorist organization and that Turkey, a NATO member, expected cooperation from its allies in combating the group.

Within hours, Turkish warplanes bombed bases in northern Iraq of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state and which Davutoglu accused of collaborating in the car bombing.

Turkey's armed forces also shelled YPG positions in northern Syria on Thursday, a security source said. Davutoglu said the artillery fire would continue and promised that those responsible for the Ankara attack would “pay the price”.

“Yesterday's attack was directly targeting Turkey and the perpetrator is the YPG and the divisive terrorist organization PKK. All necessary measures will be taken against them,” Davutoglu said in a televised speech.

President Tayyip Erdogan also said initial findings suggested the Syrian Kurdish militia and the PKK were behind the bombing and said that 14 people had been detained. 

The political arm of the YPG, denied involvement in the bombing, while a senior member of the PKK said he did not know who was responsible.

The attack was the latest in a series of bombings in the past year mostly blamed on Islamic State militants.

Turkey is getting dragged ever deeper into the war in neighboring Syria and is trying to contain some of the fiercest violence in decades in its predominantly Kurdish southeast.

The YPG militia, regarded by Ankara as a hostile insurgent force deeply linked to the PKK, has taken advantage in recent weeks of a major Syrian army offensive around the northern city of Aleppo, backed by Russian air strikes, to seize ground from Syrian rebels near the Turkish border.

That has alarmed Turkey, which fears the advances will stoke Kurdish separatist ambitions at home. It has been bombarding YPG positions in an effort to stop them taking the town of Azaz, the last stronghold of Turkish-backed Syrian rebels north of Aleppo before the Turkish frontier.

Hundreds of Syrian rebels with weapons and vehicles have re-entered Syria from Turkey over the last week to reinforce insurgents fending off the Kurdish-led assault on Azaz, rebel sources said on Thursday.

TENSIONS WITH WASHINGTON

The co-leader of the YPG's political wing denied that the affiliated YPG perpetrated the Ankara bombing and said Turkey was using the attack to justify an escalation in fighting in northern Syria.

“We are completely refuting that. …Davutoglu is preparing for something else because they are shelling us as you know for the past week,” Saleh Muslim told Reuters by telephone.

Washington's support of the YPG – it views the group as a useful ally in the fight against Islamic State – has strained relations with Turkey. Both Erdogan and Davutoglu have called on the United States to cut ties with the insurgents.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington was not in a position to either confirm or deny Turkey's charge the YPG was behind the attack. He also called on Turkey to stop shelling the YPG.

Turkey has said its shelling of YPG positions is a response, within its rules of engagement, to hostile fire coming across the border into Turkey, something Saleh Muslim also denied.

“I can assure you not even one bullet is fired by the YPG into Turkey … They don't consider Turkey an enemy,” he said.

The co-leader of the PKK umbrella group, Cemil Bayik, was quoted by the Firat news agency as saying he did not know who was responsible for the Ankara bombing. But the attack, he said, could be an answer to “massacres in Kurdistan”, referring to the Kurdish region spanning parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Turkey has been battling PKK militants in its own southeast, where a 2-1/2 year ceasefire collapsed last July and pitched the region into its worst bloodshed since the 1990s. Six soldiers were killed and one wounded on Thursday when a remote-controlled handmade bomb hit their vehicle, the military said.

WARNING TO RUSSIA

Davutoglu named the suicide bomber as Salih Necar, born in 1992 and from the Hasakah region of northern Syria, and said he was a member of the YPG. 

A senior security official said the alleged bomber had entered Turkey from Syria in July 2014, although he may have crossed the border illegally multiple times before that, and said he had had contact with the PKK and Syrian intelligence.

Davutoglu also accused the Syrian government of a hand in the Ankara bombing and warned Russia, whose air strikes in northern Syria have helped the YPG to advance, against using the Kurdish militant group against Turkey.

“I'd like to warn Russia, which is giving air support to the YPG in its advance on Azaz, not to use this terrorist group against the innocent people of Syria and Turkey,” he said. 

“Russia condemned yesterday's attack, but it is not enough. All those who intend to use terrorist organizations as proxies should know that this game of terror will turn around like a boomerang and hit them first.” 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told a teleconference with reporters that the Kremlin condemned the bombing “in the strongest possible terms.”

Car bomb attack on military in Turkish capital kills 28


Twenty-eight people were killed and dozens wounded in Turkey's capital Ankara on Wednesday when a car laden with explosives detonated next to military buses near the armed forces' headquarters, parliament and other government buildings.

The Turkish military condemned what it described as a terrorist attack on the buses as they waited at traffic lights in the administrative heart of the city.

A government spokesman said 28 people had been killed and 61 wounded in the blast, which took place near a busy intersection less than 500 metres from parliament during the evening rush hour.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag described the attack as an act of terrorism and told parliament, which was in session when the blast occurred, that the car had exploded on a part of the street lined on both sides by military vehicles.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who had been due to leave for meetings in Brussels later on Wednesday, cancelled the trip, an official in his office said. President Tayyip Erdogan postponed a planned visit to Azerbaijan.

A senior Turkish security source said initial signs indicated that Kurdish militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were responsible. Separate security sources in the mainly Kurdish southeast, however, said they believed Islamic State militants may have been behind the bombing.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“I heard a huge explosion. There was smoke and a really strong smell even though we were blocks away,” a Reuters witness said. “We could immediately hear ambulance and police car sirens rushing to the scene.”

RUSH HOUR

A health ministry official said the authorities were still trying to determine the number of dead and wounded, who had been taken to several hospitals in the area.

Images on social media showed the charred wreckage of at least two buses and a car. The explosion, which came shortly after 6:30 pm (1630 GMT), sent a large plume of smoke above central Ankara.

Turkey, a NATO member, faces multiple security threats. It is part of a U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, and has been shelling Kurdish militia fighters in northern Syria in recent days.

It has also been battling PKK militants in its own southeast where a 2-1/2 year ceasefire collapsed last July, plunging the region into its worst violence since the 1990s.

The PKK, which has fought a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy, has frequently attacked military targets in the past, although it has largely focused its campaign on the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Wednesday's bombing comes after an attack in Ankara in October blamed on Islamic State, when two suicide bombers struck a rally of pro-Kurdish and labour activists outside the capital's main train station, killing more than 100 people.

A suicide bombing in the historic heart of Istanbul in January, also blamed on Islamic State, killed 10 German tourists.

Israel cuts diplomatic presence in Turkey amid protests


Israel said on Friday it was reducing its diplomatic presence in Turkey after protesters angered by its ground offensive into Gaza pelted its consulate in Istanbul with stones and draped Palestinian flags on the ambassador's residence in Ankara.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of “incitement”, saying it was ordering the return of diplomats' families and trimming staffing to a minimum.

Erdogan had accused the Jewish state on Wednesday of terrorising the region and likened an Israeli MP and member of the governing coalition to Hitler. On Friday he said there would be no improvement in relations between the two countries while he or his administration remained in charge.

“(Israel) has always been oppressive, and continues to oppress. Hence, as Turkey, I cannot think of positive developments with Israel as long as I hold this duty,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

He also criticised the West and the Muslim world for what he said was their silence in the face of “inhumane attacks”.

“Westerners may say I am stirring up tensions, but I have the mission of winning the consent of people and God.”

Israel stepped up its land offensive in the Gaza Strip with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday after Islamist militants there rejected a proposed truce and kept firing rockets into Israeli territory. Israel warned it could “significantly widen” an operation that Palestinian officials said had killed at least 260 people in 10 days, most of them civilians. [ID:nL6N0PT00D]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul and said that Palestinian authorities were working with the international community and “brotherly Muslim countries” towards an immediate ceasefire.

Early on Friday, Turkish riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters outside the Israeli mission in Istanbul, but did not intervene in Ankara, where windows of the ambassador's residence were smashed, local media reported.

3,000 PROTESTERS

“Die out murderer Jew” had been scrawled on the wall across from the consulate in Istanbul.

“Israel strongly protests the blatant breach of diplomatic regulations … which were grossly violated by the Turkish authorities and security services during the demonstrations,” a statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

Around 3,000 people poured onto the streets of Istanbul after Friday prayers, chanting anti-Israel slogans and waving Palestinian flags, while passing cars honked in support.

“These protests will go on until all Israeli embassies are closed. I will attend all protests if I have to. I can't even begin to express my anger at the massacre in Gaza,” one woman, who was pushing her baby in a pram, told Reuters.

There were also smaller demonstrations in Ankara and the eastern city of Diyabakir, but no repeat of earlier violence.

NATO member Turkey was once Israel's closest ally in the region. But Erdogan has been a strident critic of its treatment of the Palestinians, and has issued a series of broadsides against the Jewish state since the Gaza hostilities erupted.

Anti-Israeli sentiment runs high in Turkey, particularly among Erdogan's largely conservative Sunni Muslim voter base, who he hopes will hand him victory in Turkey's first direct presidential election next month.

While bilateral trade remains largely unaffected, Israel's diplomatic presence in Turkey had already been downgraded.

Relations reached a nadir in 2010, when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara sailing as part of a flotilla challenging the Jewish state's naval blockade of Gaza. Ten people were killed.

Efforts to mend fences picked up after Netanyahu last year apologised for the raid and pledged to pay compensation as part of a U.S.-brokered rapprochement. But progress later stalled.

Suicide bomber kills guard at U.S. embassy in Turkey


A far-leftist suicide bomber killed a Turkish security guard at the U.S. embassy in Ankara on Friday, officials said, blowing open an entrance and sending debris flying through the air.

The attacker detonated explosives strapped to his body after entering an embassy gatehouse. The blast could be heard a mile away. A lower leg and other human remains lay on the street.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber was a member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a far-left group which is virulently anti-U.S. and anti-NATO and is listed as a terrorist organization by Washington.

The White House said the suicide attack was an “act of terror” but that the motivation was unclear. U.S. officials said the DHKP-C were the main suspects but did not exclude other possibilities.

Islamist radicals, extreme left-wing groups, ultra-nationalists and Kurdish militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past. There was no claim of responsibility.

“The suicide bomber was ripped apart and one or two citizens from the special security team passed away,” said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

“This event shows that we need to fight together everywhere in the world against these terrorist elements,” he said.

Turkish media reports identified the bomber as DHKP-C member Ecevit Sanli, who was involved in attacks on a police station and a military staff college in Istanbul in 1997.

KEY ALLY

Turkey is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East with common interests ranging from energy security to counter-terrorism and has been one of the leading advocates of foreign intervention to end the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Around 400 U.S. soldiers have arrived in Turkey over the past few weeks to operate Patriot anti-missile batteries meant to defend against any spillover of Syria's civil war, part of a NATO deployment due to be fully operational in the coming days.

The DHKP-C was responsible for the assassination of two U.S. military contractors in the early 1990s in protest against the first Gulf War and launched rockets at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul in 1992, according to the U.S. State Department.

Deemed a terrorist organization by both the United States and Turkey, the DHKP-C has been blamed for suicide attacks in the past, including one in 2001 that killed two police officers and a tourist in Istanbul's central Taksim Square.

The group, formed in 1978, has carried out a series of deadly attacks on police stations in the last six months.

The attack may have come in retaliation for an operation against the DHKP-C last month in which Turkish police detained 85 people. A court subsequently remanded 38 of them in custody over links to the group.

“HUGE EXPLOSION”

U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone emerged through the main gate of the embassy shortly after the explosion to address reporters, flanked by a security detail as a Turkish police helicopter hovered overhead.

“We're very sad of course that we lost one of our Turkish guards at the gate,” Ricciardone said, describing the victim as a “hero” and thanking Turkish authorities for a prompt response.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the attack on the checkpoint on the perimeter of the embassy and said several U.S. and Turkish staff were injured by debris.

“The level of security protection at our facility in Ankara ensured that there were not significantly more deaths and injuries than there could have been,” she told reporters.

It was the second attack on a U.S. mission in four months. On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American personnel were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The attack in Benghazi, blamed on al Qaeda-affiliated militants, sparked a political furor in Washington over accusations that U.S. missions were not adequately safeguarded.

A well-known Turkish journalist, Didem Tuncay, who was on her way in to the embassy to meet Ricciardone when the attack took place, was in a critical condition in hospital.

“It was a huge explosion. I was sitting in my shop when it happened. I saw what looked like a body part on the ground,” said travel agent Kamiyar Barnos, whose shop window was shattered around 100 meters away from the blast.

CALL FOR VIGILANCE

The U.S. consulate in Istanbul warned its citizens to be vigilant and to avoid large gatherings, while the British mission in Istanbul called on British businesses to tighten security after what it called a “suspected terrorist attack”.

In 2008, Turkish gunmen with suspected links to al Qaeda, opened fire on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, killing three Turkish policemen. The gunmen died in the subsequent firefight.

The most serious bombings in Turkey occurred in November 2003, when car bombs shattered two synagogues, killing 30 people and wounding 146. Part of the HSBC Bank headquarters was destroyed and the British consulate was damaged in two more explosions that killed 32 people less than a week later. Authorities said those attacks bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

Additional reporting by Daren Butler and Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Mohammed Arshad and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Stephen Powell

Turkey prepares indictments against 4 Israeli commanders over flotilla incident


A special prosecutor in Istanbul has prepared indictments against the four top Israeli commanders who led the 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship.

The 144-page indictment seeks 10 aggravated life jail sentences for each commander, including former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, according to the English-language daily Turkish news service Today’s Zaman, citing the Sabah daily.

The other Israeli commanders to be indicted reportedly are Israeli Navy commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom; Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin; and Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi.

The indictment mentions 10 “slain Turks.” Nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American man, were killed during the raid, A tenth man remains in a vegetative state, according to Zaman. The indictment also reportedly refers to 490 victims and complainants, including 189 people who were reported injured in the attacks.

Sabah said the indictment had been submitted to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı, who is expected to approve the request to submit it to the appropriate court.

Israeli naval commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning it not to sail into waters near Gaza. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the ensuing clashes.

Israel’s government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal.

The United Nations’ Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel. .

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal. 

Ankara has called on Israel for an official apology and compensation for the raid, and for the lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza. The two countries have broken off diplomatic relations and military agreements since the incident.

Israel to send quake aid to Turkey [UPDATE]


Israel said on Tuesday it was launching an airlift of supplies to help Turkey cope with a devastating earthquake, following a request from Ankara, with a first shipment of prefabricated homes destined for shipment on Wednesday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Ankara had sought the aid via the Israeli embassy there, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered assistance in a telephone call to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan after the quake struck on Sunday.

The humanitarian step taken as more than 400 were reported dead in the disaster that struck southeastern Turkey, was seen as possibly easing diplomatic strains between the allies over the incident involving the Gaza-bound flotilla last year.

A spokesman for Israei Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that “tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon a first aircraft will fly from Israel to Turkey with several prefabricated homes,” suggesting the shipment would be followed by others.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor said Turkey had “relayed a request to the embassy in Ankara for mobile homes” and that Israel was checking into the logistics of shipping these supplies.

“We are checking what we can do, and will do whatever we can,” Palmor said.

In Ankara, a Foreign Ministry official said Turkey had requested prefabricated housing and tents from more than 30 countries.

“We informed all countries who offered help, including Israel, of a request on specific items for post-emergency material, such as prefabricated houses, containers and tents,” the official said.

Israel, geographically close to Turkey, with each country situated on opposite sides of Syria and Lebanon, has sent equipment and rescue teams to Turkey after past earthquakes. Turkey sent fire-fighting planes last December to help Israel battle a brush fire that killed 41 people.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc denied on Monday that Ankara had declined an offer of aid from Israel.

Tensions between the two U.S. allies increased last month when Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador after Israel refused to apologise for the Turks killed last year.

Israel said its marines acted in self-defence in clashes with pro-Palestinian activists aboard a vessel bound last year for Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist group Hamas.

Additional reporting by Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Michael Roddy