Turkey: Israeli Diplomats Must Leave Country by Wednesday

Move marks latest step taken by Turkey against Israel following the release of the UN-commissioned report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.

Turkey on Monday informed Israel's top diplomat in Ankara that nearly all senior Israeli embassy personnel must leave the country by Wednesday.

Ella Ofek, the deputy to the Israeli ambassador to Turkey and the person currently in charge of the Israeli embassy in Ankara, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday. Ofek was informed that all Israeli diplomats ranked above the level of second secretary, including the IDF military attaché, must depart Turkey by Wednesday.

erdogan - AP - March 28 2011

The only Israeli diplomats permitted to remain include embassy spokesman Nizar Amir and personnel who provide consular services.

The recent crisis in Israel-Turkey relations deepened after the UN-commissioned report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid was leaked to the New York Times, foiling a last-ditch effort to patch up relations between the two countries. Turkey then announced a series of measures against Israel, beginning with the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the downgrading of bilateral relations to the level of second secretary.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the crisis with Turkey, saying he "hopes a way will be found to overcome the differences with Turkey," and adding that "we do not want a further downgrading of the relations."

On Monday, some 40 Israelis on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were separated from the rest of the passengers upon arrival in Turkey and were questioned at length by Turkish police, marking a highly unusual event against the backdrop of a deepening diplomatic crisis.