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Türkiye ceases all trade with Israel over Gaza atrocities

Türkiye has announced it is suspending all trade activities with Israel over its relentless military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza until a permanent cease-fire is secured as well as Israel allowing unhindered humanitarian aid flow to the region.

Israel’s “uncompromising attitude” and the worsening situation in Gaza’s southern Rafah region – where Israel has threatened to launch a new offensive – prompted Türkiye to halt all exports and imports, Trade Minister Ömer Bolat said on Friday.

The decision, announced late on Thursday, citing the “worsening humanitarian tragedy” in the Palestinian territories, made Türkiye the first of Israel’s key trade partners to halt exports and imports over its campaign in Gaza.

“Export and import transactions related to Israel have been stopped, covering all products,” the Trade Ministry said in a statement.

“Türkiye will strictly and decisively implement these new measures until the Israeli government allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

The bilateral goods exchange between the two countries stood at nearly $7 billion (TL 226 billion) a year.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday said Türkiye imposed the trade ban because it could no longer “stand by and watch” the violence in Gaza.

“We closed the door (to trade) as though this trade volume did not exist,” Erdoğan told reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayer.

“There is no acceptable aspect to the developments between Israel and Palestine … As Muslims, it is unthinkable for us to stand by and watch this happen.”

He said Türkiye couldn’t tolerate Israel’s “merciless” killing of Palestinians any longer, “so we took action.”

Türkiye is negotiating “with our Palestinian brothers on alternative arrangements to ensure that they are not affected by this decision,” Bolat said in Istanbul while announcing April trade figures.

Last month, Erdoğan said Türkiye no longer continued “intense trade” with Israel, adding, “That is done.”

He did not indicate Ankara had cut off all trade with Israel, however.

A general view of the Red Sea port of Eilat, southern Israel, April 16, 2024. (EPA Photo)
A general view of the Red Sea port of Eilat, southern Israel, April 16, 2024. (EPA Photo)

The Gaza Strip is suffering a humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s unprecedented genocidal airstrikes and bombardments that have been raging since Oct. 7, with the United Nations and aid agencies warning of impending famine.

Israel’s offensive has killed nearly 34,600 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to local health officials.

The latest round of the conflict started after the Palestinian resistance group Hamas’ attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, according to Israel.

‘Victory’ for Palestinians

Earlier on Thursday, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, accused Türkiye of blocking Israeli imports and exports from Turkish ports.

He added that Israel would create alternatives for trade with Türkiye, focusing on local production and imports from other countries.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, said Türkiye’s decision was “brave and reflective of the Turkish people’s longstanding support for Palestinian rights and self-determination.”

It said it considers it a “victory for the Palestinian people.”

“We highly value the decisions recently taken by the Republic of Türkiye as a victory for our Palestinian people who are being subjected to a horrific genocide,” Hamas said in a statement.

The movement also hailed Türkiye’s decision this week to join the lawsuit filed by South Africa against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Ankara would soon submit a formal request to intervene in the case.

South Africa filed a case at the ICJ accusing Israel of breaching the Genocide Convention with its military offensive.

The Trade Ministry described the latest step as the “second phase” of measures against Israel.

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

All remaining trade, which amounted to $5.4 billion in Turkish exports and $1.6 billion in Israeli imports last year, will now be halted.

Trade data shows that steel, vehicles, plastics, electrical devices and machinery are the top Turkish exports to Israel, while imports were dominated by fuels, at $634 million last year.

NATO member Türkiye is among the harshest critics of Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

Erdoğan has branded Israel a “terrorist state,” repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire, and accused it of carrying out war crimes and genocide in the Palestinian enclave.

Ankara has supported steps to try Israel for genocide and sent thousands of tons of aid for the Gazans.

Relations between Türkiye and Israel have been frosty for years. Trade ties between them remained strong in the past but have plunged since the conflict began.

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