Eight members of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Committee paid a unique visit to southern Israel on Tuesday, the first such delegation from Ankara to tour Israel that was not part of an entourage for a visiting prime minister or other top legislator.
The 'Color Red' rocket alert sirens blared throughout the streets of Sderot while the group was there, warning of an incoming Qassam barrage from Gaza.
The delegation seemed unfazed by the incident, said Israeli officials who accompanied the group. "They seemed a little more alert but seemed to be understanding of the situation. It appeared as though they were both apprehensive and expectant of the siren alert," State officials told Ynet.
Turkish delegation examining Qassam shell
Heading the delegation, half of whose members belong to the ruling 'Justice and Development Party,' is MP Murat Marjan.
"The chairman of the committee came to politics from the academic world. In their eyes the college is seen as a neutral space which should not be targeted by terrorists. The fact that the Sapir College had been hit by Qassam rockets spoke volumes to them," said the Israeli officials.
From Sderot the delegation headed for meetings with President Shimon Peres, Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and their Israeli counterparts from the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Among the topics raised during the meetings were current tensions with Iran and Syria and recent calls in Israel to recognize the Armenian genocide. It was also decided that in an effort to strengthen relations,
lawmakers from the Turkish parliament and the Knesset would pay annual visits to each other.
On Wednesday the delegation is scheduled to meet with Palestinian officials in Ramallah. The MPs will not travel to the Gaza Strip due to their government's objection to Hamas' actions.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed its satisfaction with the visit and noted it was a testament to the exceptional relationship between Jerusalem and Ankara.