Turkey has canceled a planned joint military drill with Israel to protest against Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Turkey informed Israel of cancellation of the Anatolian Eagle exercise last week, Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
The US, Italy and NATO air forces were also to participate in the air force drill, which was to be held this week.
Turkey has declared that it has canceled the drill because the planes that Israel was going to send were, in all likelihood, the very same ones that bombed the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, the report said.
"The exercise was postponed due to a Turkish decision to change the composition of the participants and not allow the Israel Air Force to participate, a decision we were informed of only several days ago," the Israeli Defense Force Spokesman’s Office said in a statement. "Ties between the countries are still tense," explained an Israeli military official. "The announcement about the cancellation was sudden and unexpected.”
Anatolian Eagle was first held in 2001, with Turkish, Israeli and American participation. The drill lasted almost two weeks and included Israeli F-16’s, helicopters and refueling tankers.
Israel last participated in the exercise in September 2008, but has not flown its military aircraft in Turkey since Operation Cast Lead, due to the increase in tensions. The military exercises were scheduled to take place later this month at an air base in Konya city located in central Turkey and the heart of the Anatolian plateau.
Turkish public had earlier called on Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to allow Israeli warplanes, which bombed Palestinian homes, to participate in military drills over Turkey’s airspace.