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Gaza ship raid: Turkey considers dropping charges against Israelis

The attack on the Mavi Marmara ship in 2010 killed 10 activists and led to a rift in Israeli-Turkish ties until an agreement was brokered in June
Protesters shout anti-Israeli slogans on October 19, 2016 outside the Istanbul courthouse AFP

A Turkish prosecutor has called for charges to be withdrawn in relation to the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla carrying aid to Gaza in 2010 following a reconciliation deal between Turkey and Israel, state media reported on Friday.

The prosecutor told an Istanbul court that the case against the Israelis should be dropped because of the agreement between the two states, state-run news agency Anadolu said.

The demand is likely to anger families and lawyers, who told AFP in October that they had no intention of dropping the lawsuits despite the deal.

Thirteen Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, killing nine Turkish activists: a 10th died in 2014, after being in a coma for four years. They initially used riot-dispersal gear and then quickly switched to live fire against what Israel described as armed opposition.

At the time Benjamin Netanyahu praised and saluted the commandos, saying they acted "courageously, morally and with restraint’’, Reuters reported.

An Israeli commando boards the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 (Cihan News Agency/AFP)

The attack sparked a breakdown in relations between the two countries, as they both withdrew their respective ambassadors, though diplomatic ties were never fully severed.

After several rounds of secret talks, the two states reached an agreement in June: Israel apologised for the raid and offered $20 million in compensation. Israel also agreed to allow Turkish aid to reach Gaza as part of the deal.

Both sides also agreed that Israeli citizens or those acting on behalf of the Israeli government would not be held accountable - either criminally or financially - for the raid.

Gaza has been under an Israeli military siege since 2007, after Hamas was elected to rule the territory. Residents are struggling to cope with a crippled economy and stalled reconstruction following the 2014 50-day assault by Israel, the third and most devastating attack on Gaza since 2008. 

READ: The all-women boat trying to break the siege of Gaza

Turkish prosecutors had been seeking life sentences for the alleged involvement of former Israeli military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy, who went on trial in absentia in 2012.

One of the key points to normalising relations between the two states was the exchange of ambassadors, which will formally take place this month.

Israel's envoy Eitan Naeh arrived in Ankara on Thursday, and is due to present his letter of credentials to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan within days.

Meanwhile Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's policy advisor Kemal Okem will start work as Turkey's ambassador to Israel on December 12, Anadolu said on Friday.