El Al plane
El Al plane Photo by Nir Keidar
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Turkey has restricted the use of its airspace to Israeli cargo flights, marking another step in the deterioration of the bilateral relations between the two nations.

Turkey has begun banning Israeli flights carrying “dangerous materials” from using its airspace, Haaretz learned on Sunday.

The ban effects El Al and CAL cargo flights carrying materials designated as “dangerous.” This designation includes most of the cargo flights in and out of Israel, as it doesn’t include only explosives, but also any flight carrying batteries and even perfume, which are flammable and require special storage procedures.

From now on, Turkey is requiring that it be notified about flights of this type at least 10 days in advance, so that they may review whether or not to approve them.

The new move is causing substantial financial damage to Israeli airlines, as most Israeli flights, and all those flying to the Far East, regularly use Turkish airspace, and are now being forced to use longer flight routes that circumvent Turkey.

The two companies have contacted the Civil Aviation Administration of Israel, demanding Israel reciprocate with comparable restrictions on Turkish flights, which currently use Israeli airspace freely.

An industry executive told Haaretz that this was “a very serious move by Turkey, which must be met by an immediate response from the Civil Aviation Administration of Israel.”

Ties between Turkey and Israel, once close allies, have been strained in recent years since Turkey harshly criticized Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008/2009.

Relations deteriorated further following a Turkish-sponsored aid flotilla in May 2010, which aimed to bring supplies to Gaza in violation of an Israeli naval blockade. An Israeli navy raid on one of the flotilla ships ended in a violent clash that left nine Turkish activists dead.

Read this article in Hebrew