Turkish warships will escort any Turkish aid vessels to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television on Thursday.
"Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza," Erdogan said in the interview. "From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla."
More on the Israel-Turkey diplomatic crisis
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- PM: Israel will not apologize to Turkey
Erdogan also said that Turkey has taken steps to "stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources from the eastern Mediterranean."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor responded to the Turkish premier' statement by saying: "This is a statement well-worth not commenting on."
Senior Jerusalem sources said Thursday night that Erdogan seems to have "lost his senses." Other sources stressed that the Turkish premier's threats will not affect the IDF's enforcement of the Gaza blockade.
"Erdogan may face trouble from NATO and the US – they will not take kindly to his threats against Israel, which has excellent relations with NATO.
"Israel is not dismissing Turkey's threats, but NATO is likely to disapprove of the fact that one of its members is conducting itself in such a problematic, menacing fashion," once source said.
Another Jerusalem source noted that "it seems that Erdogan is adamant on dragging Israel into a public, diplomatic conflict… We won't allow that to happen. There is no telling where the situation is going, but we hope this will all blow over."
As for the Turkish PM's escalating rhetoric, the source said that "today, Turkey is very much a one-man state. There is no telling what his next move will be."
Concerning rhetoric. Erdogan (Photo: Reuters)
Jerusalem is trying to deploy covert diplomatic efforts vis-à-vis Ankara, in which the US and Europe are involved.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 15 other American legislators has recently met with Turkey's ambassador to Washington, in an attempted to mediate between Ankara and Jerusalem.
"We are constantly holding situation assessments. This is a new reality and we have to deal with it," a high-ranking political source told Ynet.
Earlier Thursday, a military source told an Egyptian website that Turkey is expected to hold naval military maneuvers with Egypt in Turkey's territorial waters at the end of the year.
Erdogan will visit Egypt next week as part of a regional tour and is expected to sign several trade and military agreements with Cairo.
Turkey is a prominent member in NATO and "Egypt is determined to hold the maneuvers in spite of its current political climate," the source told the website.
While in Egypt, Erdogan will meet with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and other top officials.
According to Egyptian media, a mission of high-ranking Turkish officials will accompany Erdogan, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Ankara's trade minister and several prominent businessmen.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli military official told the Associated Press that the IDF has deployed drones over the Israel-Egypt border.
According to AP's source, the IAF deployed a special unit of unmanned surveillance aircraft along Israel's long border with Egypt as a terror-prevention measure, after terrorists infiltrated the border and killed eight Israelis in August.
The drones are said to be monitoring both sides of the 150-mile border, though the aircrafts are keeping solely to Israeli airspace.
Israel has grown increasingly concerned about the security situation in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula following the ouster of longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Attila Somfalvi, Roi Kais, Roee Nahmias and AP contributed to this report
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