Today’s edition of the Turkish newspaper Zaman reports that Israel has recalled its Heron drone operators from the southeast Turkish city of Batman, where they had been training Turkish officers on the unmanned aircraft. The action occurs in the wake of the deadly May 31 attack on the Mavi Marmara and ensuing diplomatic crisis between the two nations.
In 2005, Turkey agreed to purchase 10 Heron drones from Israel at a total price of nearly 190 million dollars. Following a delay of over 2 years, 6 of the promised aircraft were delivered to Turkey earlier this year. According to Zaman, the removal of the Israeli operators at this particular time, before the Turkish officers have completed their training, appears to be driven by more than mere concern for the operators’ safety. As infiltrations and attacks by “terrorists”—i.e. Kurdish separatists—along Turkey’s southern border tend to peak during the summer months, the Turkish military’s potential inability to use the drones may be viewed as a sort of punishment.
As for the state-sponsored terrorism of which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused Israel, the withdrawal of the operators may save Turkey from the hypocrisy of employing Israeli-manufactured weaponry test driven on the very population the Turkish humanitarian activists murdered on the Mavi Marmara were endeavoring to help.