Turkey Dispatches 3 Warships to Eastern Mediterranean
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dispatched 3 warships to the Eastern Mediterranean to 'defend against Israeli vessels' and ensure 'freedom of navigation' for his country’s ships, Today's Zaman reported.
The move, only the latest in Erdogan's bellicose rhetorical assault on Israel, comes on the same day he called Israel's boarding of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in 2010 "grounds for war" adding only Turkey's "greatness and patience" had averted conflict.
...Turkish ships will provide protection for ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza and confront Israeli warships outside of Israel's territorial waters if necessary, according to the report.
The prospect of a Cuban Missile Crisis style showdown at sea with Turkey, a NATO power and fellow ally of the United States, has led Washington to appeal for restraint and led to a quiet decision for brinksmanship - and continued enforcement of the blockade - in Jerusalem.
Turkish frigates to confront Israeli ships in Mediterranean
The Turkish Navy is planning to dispatch three frigates to the Eastern Mediterranean to ensure freedom of navigation and to confront Israeli warships if necessary, a Turkish news report said on Monday.
If the Turkish warships encounter an Israeli military ship outside Israel's 12-mile territorial waters, they will advance up to 100 meters close to the ship and disable its weapon system, in a confrontation that resembles dogfights in the Aegean Sea with Greek jet fighters, according to the report.
Turkey sending 3 warships to Mediterranean
The prospect of a showdown at sea with Turkey, a NATO power and fellow ally of the United States, rattled Israelis already on edge over political upheaval in the Arab world and Iran's nuclear program. Washington has appealed for restraint.
Erdogan, seeking to expand Turkey's regional influence, will travel to Cairo on Monday as part of a tour of three Arab countries likely to be scrutinized by Israel, whose once warm ties with both Muslim states have been shaken.
Turkey is increasing the rumors of war by air as well:
New technology allows Turkey to attack Israeli targets
Turkey's Military Electronic Industry developed a new identification system for its F-16 fighter jets that will allow it to attack Israeli targets, according to a Tuesday report by the Turkish Star Gazete.
The previous US system automatically classified all Israeli targets as "friend" and disallowed any attacks on them. The new system will allow Turkey to determine whether or not a target should be considered "friend."
After two years of development, the system is ready for use and will be installed on Turkish aircrafts, ships and submarines in the near future.
Meanwhile, the rhetoric has become even more toxic:
The report came a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Cairo, amid expectations he will blast Israel at a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers on Tuesday as part of his efforts to be seen as the head of the Muslim world.
“Israel has become a spoiled child... Not only does it practice state terrorism against the Palestinians, but it also started to act irresponsibly,” he was quoted as saying in a recent interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk.
Turkey no longer averting attacks on Israeli targets
The bottom line to all of this?
Israel-Turkey military clash becomes more likely
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday significantly increased the likelihood of an Israeli-Turkish military clash when he dispatched a naval task force to the eastern Mediterranean with orders to confront Israeli warships.
Erdogan has called Israel's May 2010 interception of a Turkish-led "humanitarian aid" flotilla to Gaza an act of piracy. He labeled as a "war crime" the killing of nine Turkish nationals who, along with other passengers, tried to lynch the Israeli boarding party.
Last week, Erdogan ratcheted up his hostile rhetoric when he told an Al Jazeera interviewer that Israel's raid on the Mavi Marmara and its fellow vessels had been "grounds for war."
And it seems Erdogan is determined to actually provoke a confrontation.
He told Al Jazeera that Turkey has "humanitarian aid that we want to carry" to Gaza, under the protection of his warships, in violation of the Israeli blockade.
So it appears that Erdogan will threaten the Gaza blockade under the premise of "humanitarian aid":
Israel says it will not back down on its maritime blockade of Gaza, which the UN commissioned Palmer Committee certified as legal and legitimate just last month. While the Palmer Report criticized Israel for the level of violence used in subduing the Mavi Marmara crew, it approved of Israel's enforcement of the Gaza blockade, even in international waters.
Erdogan's threat also completely ignores the fact that an enormous amount of humanitarian aid enters Gaza ever day via the coastal territory's land crossings with Israel.
Prior to the Mavi Marmara incident, Israel and other nations urged the flotilla's organizers to transfer their aid via those land crossings. Readily admitting that their main goal was to break Israel's UN-certified blockade, the flotilla organizers refused.
Now it appears Erdogan is prepared to do the same, but with far more serious consequences.
Turkey is threatening Cyprus as well:
Turkey seeks EU help to avert Cyprus gas crisis
Turkey's ambassador to the EU has said member states should urge Cyprus to "see reason" in order to stop a dispute over gas exploration from getting worse.
Cyprus has hired US company Noble to start drilling later this month at a 6,000-square-kilometre field called Block 12, situated under the Mediterranean Sea to the south of the island.
Cyprus has been split in two since 1974 with the Turkish military still present on the island in support of the largely unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Asked by EUobserver if Turkey would use warships to stop Noble from going ahead if necessary, Kuneralp said: "I hope it will not come to that and the Greek Cypriots will see reason ...
The region was already a powder keg before Turkey began there sabre-rattling. Now Turkey continues to provoke and threaten neighboring countries in the region, particularly Israel - the last thing needed in the Middle East.
Today's news adds yet another dimension. Now we have Turkish warships threatening Israel and we see that their planes are now equipped to attack Israel - all at a time of escalating rhetoric.
The epicenter is on the brink of exploding.