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Turkey assures safety of Israeli club
Turkish sports minister says Maccabi Tel Aviv's soccer match against Besiktas in Istanbul will be played in 'highest level of hospitality'
Turkey's sports minister on Thursday assured Israeli football club Maccabi Tel Aviv of its safety ahead of next week's Europa League game against Turkish club Besiktas in Istanbul.

 

Suat Kilic told a televised news conference that the match will be played in the "highest level of (Turkish) hospitality," next Thursday and Israeli players will "safely" return home.

 

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The game comes amid heightened tensions between the two nations over Israel's refusal to apologize for the death of eight Turks and a Turkish-American in a raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship last year.

 

Turkish-Israeli relations hit a low last week after a UN report on the incident said Israel's naval blockade of Gaza was a "legitimate security measure," but also called the raid on the flotilla that tried to break the blockade "excessive and unreasonable."

 

Turkey has since expelled top Israeli diplomats, cut military ties with the country, pledged to lobby other nations in support of the Palestinians' statehood bid and promised increased Turkish naval patrols in the Mediterranean.

 

Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives aboard the flotilla, but it has refused to apologize, saying its forces acted in self-defense.

 

Turkey took strict security measures during last year's European Volleyball League tournament and closed a game between Turkey and Israel to the public. A small group of protesters were stopped by police two blocks away from the venue as they voiced anger over Israel's May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.

 

Before another volleyball match between Israel and Serbia during the tournament in July, protesters scuffled with police, pounding police shields with Palestinian flags.

 

Turkey had increased security for the Israeli team after an Israeli basketball team was pelted with bottles and forced to flee the court early last year amid Turkish accusations against Israel of using excessive force against Palestinians.

 

 

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