Istanbul Turkey warned Israel on Monday that its lethal storming of the flotilla of aid ships to Gaza, which left at least 10 activists dead, may have “irreversible consequences” for relations between the two Middle East countries.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered and chanted slogans outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, as the government in Ankara summoned the Israeli ambassador to explain his country's actions.
Feelings were running high in Turkey — a key mediator in the Middle East — as one of the boats in the flotilla was Turkish, and its webstream of camera footage of the storming of the boats was broadcast on Turkish TV.
66 people wounded on Turkish boat
Turkish media reports say an additional 66 people have been wounded on the Turkish boat, which was carrying hundreds of activists.
Up to 10,000 protestors demonstrated in front of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul and in the city’s main Taksim Square.
The convoy had been heading towards the Gaza coast to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip that has been under embargo by Israel since 2006.
The largest aid vessel was under Turkish flag, carrying about 500 passengers.
“We protest in the strongest terms the use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in its statement.
“This grave incident, which took place in high seas in gross violation of international law might cause irreversible consequences in our bilateral relations,” it continued.
Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, Gaby Levi, was summoned for a meeting with Turkish Foreign Ministry representatives. The ambassador left the 20—minute meeting without making any statement.
Earlier, the Turkish government and military met for an emergency session to discuss its response to the incident.
At one point in the early morning it appeared that demonstrators were about to attempt to storm the consulate building, according to Turkish TV reports.
Instead, angry chants were heard outside as news of possible fatalities on the flotilla emerged.
Israeli flags burnt
In Istanbul, hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside the Israeli Consulate, throwing stones and burning Israeli flags. Police prevented the protestors’ attempt to storm the consulate.
Up to 10,000 angry protestors have marched from the consulate to Taksim Square, where the demonstration continues.
Turkish television had shown bloody footage of the attack on the boat through a live stream of camera footage from the vessel, until the ship’s satellite connection was cut off during the attack.
Turkish public opinion is overwhelmingly sympathetic to the people of Gaza. Although Turkey has historically had close diplomatic ties with Israel, the relationship has suffered in the last couple of years.