Turkey Reportedly Sets Deadline for Israel Apology for Deadly Attack

Turkey's foreign minister has set this week's expected release of a U.N. report on Israel's raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla as a deadline for Israel to apologize for the deadly attack, two Turkish newspapers reported Thursday.

The May 2010 raid by Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists and severely strained Israeli-Turkish relations. Turkey has warned ties could deteriorate further if Israel does not apologize, but Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has ruled out the idea.

"The date the United Nations is expected to release the report is the deadline. If there is no apology until that date we will put our Plan B into motion," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in accounts printed in Turkey's Hurriyet and Zaman newspapers.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said Thursday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "has not yet received the report himself."

"We understand that the report will be submitted to the secretary-general in the next few days," del Buey said. "We will seek confirmation."

Davutoglu did not elaborate on what measures Turkey would take against Israel, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested last month that Turkey could back possible court action by victims' families against Israel.

Turkish newspaper reports have said Turkey also is considering downgrading diplomatic ties, cutting off economic ties and military cooperation, and giving Turkey's full backing to the Palestinian quest for state recognition.

In addition to an apology, Turkey also is demanding compensation for the victims' families and an end to Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, imposed since 2007. The nine people who died included eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American.

The flotilla was trying to break the Israeli blockade. Activists charged that Israel was depriving Gaza's Palestinians of vital supplies. Israel said the blockade was necessary to keep weapons away from Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza.

When the Israeli commandos reached the flotilla, they clashed with activists armed with knives, clubs and iron rods. Israel says soldiers acted in self-defense after the activists assaulted them on deck, while the activists say they were defending themselves from an Israeli attack.

The flotilla raid drew an international outcry and forced Israel to ease its blockade.

An Israeli inquiry into the raid cleared the military and government of any wrongdoing and said the armed defense of Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza was justified under international law.

But a Turkish committee that investigated the raid refuted Israeli claims of self-defense, and said Israeli soldiers used "excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate" force on unarmed civilians.