ANKARA : A Turkish court on Monday ordered the arrest of four former Israeli military chiefs over a deadly 2010 maritime assault, in a move which could jeopardise reconciliation efforts between the countries.
The court in Istanbul will ask Interpol to issue international arrest warrants for four men involved in a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, Cihat Gokdemir, a lawyer working on the case, told AFP.
The ruling is part of an ongoing criminal trial in absentia of the four men on charges brought by aid group IHH and the victims' families in 2012, which has been denounced as a "show" by Israel.
It also follows months of negotiations between former allies Turkey and Israel to end a diplomatic row sparked when nine activists were killed after Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged ship.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the court's decision on Monday as a "ridiculous provocation".
"If this is the message that the Turks want to send to Israel, it was perfectly well understood," said the official, declining to elaborate further on what this meant for the reconciliation process.
Turkish officials recently said they were close to a deal that would see Israel pay compensation for the deaths. Local media said Israel had insisted any deal be conditional on the lawsuits against the soldiers being dropped.
Turkish prosecutors are seeking life sentences for former military chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy.
Nine Turkish activists died aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched by Turkish relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, on May 31, 2010.
The assault sparked widespread condemnation and provoked a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador, demanded a formal apology and compensation and an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas a Palestinian militant group.
An Israeli probe ruled the raid did not violate international law, in a finding that Turkey said lacked credibility.