Turkey Halts All Trade With Israel Over Gaza Humanitarian Crisis

(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

John Oyewale Contributor
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The Republic of Turkey announced Thursday that it would halt all trade with Israel, citing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“[E]xport and import transactions related to Israel have been stopped, covering all products,” Turkey’s Ministry of Trade announced in a statement. “Turkey will strictly and decisively implement these new measures until the Israeli Government allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

Turkey’s Ministry of Trade would deal directly with the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of National Economy “to ensure that our Palestinian brothers who have to live under occupation are not affected by these restrictions,” the statement noted.

The trade freeze marked “the second phase of measures” against Israel due to what Turkey called Israel’s “aggressive attitude” and the “worsening” humanitarian “tragedy” in Gaza, according to the statement.

Turkey had enacted a limited trade restriction on Israel on Apr. 9, having accused the country of preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza and failing to respond to calls from the international community for a ceasefire, despite Türkiye’s efforts to support “our Palestinian brothers in these difficult days” with food and medical aid, the statement revealed.

Turkey and Israel had a trade volume of $6.8 billion between them in 2023, Reuters reported.

Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz reacted sharply to Turkey’s decision. “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] is breaking agreements by blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports. This is how a dictator behaves, disregarding the interests of the Turkish people and businessmen, and ignoring international trade agreements,” he tweeted Thursday. Israel would look within for local production and look to other countries for import, Katz added. “Israel will emerge with a strong and daring economy. We Win, and They Lose,” he said.

Israel denied limiting aid to Gaza. Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reported that Israel had opened the Erez Crossing into northern Gaza for the first time since Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023,  as “part of our efforts to increase the quantity and routes of aid into Gaza.” COGAT regularly posts updates on food and medical aid that it claims Israel has allowed into Gaza.

However, there have been reports of Israeli settlers attacking aid trucks and the aid Israel allows in being inadequate, leading to a United Nations criticism that Israel could be using starvation as a weapon of war and thus might be held liable for a war crime, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is building a floating pier and causeway, both to cost $320 million, to facilitate aid delivery to Gazans, the BBC reported. The construction site came under mortar attack last month. (RELATED: Turkish President Orders Its Ambassador To Leave Israel)

Despite Turkey being the first Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel—back in 1949—the relationship between the two countries has been fraught, according to the BBC. Turkey reportedly broke off all diplomatic ties with Israel in 2010 after Israeli commandos killed 10 pro-Palestine Turkish activists who tried to break Israel’s military blockade of the Gaza Strip. The two countries reportedly restored relations six years later, only to recall their ambassadors in 2018 over Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza-Israel border.

Three weeks after the Oct. 7 terror attack, Erdoğan praised Hamas as a “liberation group” not a terrorist organization, canceled his scheduled trip to Israel, and in Nov. 2023 recalled its ambassador to Israel.

Four months ago, Erdoğan dubbed Israel’s “Swords of Iron” response to the terror attack “not any less than what Hitler did”, while Netanyahu accused Erdoğan of “commit[ing] genocide against the Kurds” and “hold[ing] a world record for imprisoning journalists who oppose his rule,” the BBC reported.

Turkey affirmed its belief in the two-state solution, according to its Ministry of Trade’s statement.