HomeWorldTurkey halts trade with Israel over the war in Gaza | CBC...

Turkey halts trade with Israel over the war in Gaza | CBC News

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Turkey will not resume trade with Israel, worth $7 billion US a year, until a permanent ceasefire and humanitarian aid are secured in Gaza, it said on Friday, the first of Israel’s key partners to halt trade over the conflict.

Israel’s “uncompromising attitude” and the worsening situation in Gaza’s southern Rafah region — where Israel has threatened to launch a new offensive — prompted Turkey to halt all exports and imports, the country’s trade minister Omer Bolat said.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz criticized Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s move, announced late on Thursday, saying it breaks international trade agreements and was “how a dictator behaves.”

Katz said the Israeli government would look for “alternatives for trade with Turkey, focusing on local production and imports from other countries.”

The militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, praised the decision as brave and supportive of Palestinian rights.

“We decided to stop exports and imports to and from Israel until a permanent ceasefire is achieved [in Gaza] and humanitarian aid is allowed without interruption,” the minister Bolat said.

WATCH | Israel adamant any temporary deal won’t prevent Rafah operation:

War in Gaza continues as Hamas considers ceasefire deal

Israel’s war in Gaza continues with more airstrikes on Rafah ahead of a long-promised ground operation. But a new aid crossing in the north is relieving some of the humanitarian pressure, and there are signs Israel and Hamas could be close to a deal on a temporary ceasefire.

Last month, Turkey curbed exports of steel, fertilizer and jet fuel among 54 product categories over what it said was Israel’s refusal to allow Ankara to take part in aid air-drop operations for Gaza.

Turkey could not remain idle in the face of “Israeli bombardment of defenceless Palestinians,” Erdogan said after Friday prayers. 

Exporters plot workarounds

Turkish exporters with firm orders are looking at ways to send their goods to Israel via third countries after Turkey halted bilateral trade, four export sector sources told Reuters.

Katz said blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports ignores trade deals, adding on social media platform X that Israel would work toward alternatives for trade with Turkey.

An older man with a mustache wearing a suit and tie speaks into a microphone with the red flag of Turkey shown in the background.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint statement to the media in Baghdad on April 22, 2024. Turkey on Thursday suspended all imports and exports to Israel citing the country’s ongoing military action in Gaza and vowed to continue to impose other measures until the Israeli government allows the flow of humanitarian to the region. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/The Associated Press)

Turkey has denounced Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, sent thousands of tonnes of aid for Gazans and, this week, said it would join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Turkey maintains ties with Hamas leaders and does not deem it a terrorist group, unlike several other countries who are also part of NATO.

On Wednesday, President Gustavo Petro said Colombia would break diplomatic relations with Israel over its actions in Gaza, earning a harsh rebuke from Katz. Petro has already heavily criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and requested to join South Africa’s case at the ICJ.

Aid agencies try to prepare for Rafah onslaught

More than 34,600 people have been killed in Gaza during Israel’s nearly seven-month-old military offensive, Palestinian health officials say. The military operation in Gaza came after militants led by Hamas killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages during an Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, according to Israeli tallies.

Netanyahu said earlier this week that Israel is committed to a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite international concerns.

LISTEN | Freelance journalist Akram Al-Sattari on what he’s seen at Gaza hospitals: 

Front Burner24:40Mass graves uncovered at Gaza hospitals

The UN’s humanitarian office said Friday that an incursion in Rafah would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents at risk and be a huge blow to the aid operations of the entire enclave, as the World Health Organization (WHO) announced contingency plans for an incursion.

“It could be a slaughter of civilians and an incredible blow to the humanitarian operation in the entire strip because it is run primarily out of Rafah,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office (OCHA), at a Geneva press briefing.

Aid operations in Rafah include medical clinics, warehouses stocked with humanitarian supplies, food distribution points and 50 centres for acutely malnourished children, Laerke said.

OCHA would do everything possible to ensure aid operations continued, even in the event of an incursion, and was studying how to do that, he added.

A WHO official said at the same briefing that a contingency plan for Rafah had been prepared, which included a new field hospital, but said it would not be enough to prevent a substantial rise in the death toll.

WATCH | Ahmed Kouta recounts working as a nurse in Gaza hospital:

Ahmed Kouta describes ‘chaotic’ hospital environment in Gaza

As a nurse, Ahmed Kouta says health-care resources were already stretched in Gaza before Oct. 7, but the outbreak of war has made the situation even more dire. ‘The bombardments were always heard, even though we were inside the ER, and it’s a place that bombardment shouldn’t be heard,’ he said of his time working in Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza.

Other preparations include pre-positioning medical supplies at hospitals further north in case Rafah’s three hospitals become non-functional, as has happened multiple times in the seven-month conflict due to Israeli raids and bombings.

Israel has said it will work to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians from Rafah.

WHO data shows that just a third of the strip’s 36 pre-war hospital are partially operational. Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and says its operations against them have been justified by the presence of fighters. Hamas and medical staff deny the allegations.

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