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Turkey to challenge Gaza blockade

Turkey is preparing to challenge Israel's blockade on Gaza at the International Court of Justice, turning up the tension between the once close allies.

Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu's made the announcement a day after Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and severed military ties with the country in anger over its refusal to apologise for last year's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.

In an interview with Turkey's state-run TRT television, Mr Davutoglu dismissed a United Nations report into the raid that said Israel's naval blockade of Gaza was a legal security measure.

He said the report - prepared by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, and presented to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon - was not endorsed by the United Nations and was therefore not binding.

"What is binding is the International Court of Justice," Mr Davutoglu said. "This is what we are saying: let the International Court of Justice decide. We are starting the necessary legal procedures this coming week."

Israel's deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon said his country had nothing to apologise for and it has done all it could to avoid a crisis with Turkey.

He said the Turks apparently intended to raise tensions with Israel for its own reasons.

"The problem here is on the Turkish side. ... They were not ready for a compromise and kept raising the threshold," Mr Ayalon said on Israeli TV. "I think we need to say to the Turks: as far as we are concerned, this saga is behind us. Now we need to co-operate. Lack of co-operation harms not only us, but Turkey as well."

Mr Davutoglu said the UN report released on Friday contradicted an earlier report on the Gaza flotilla incident which found that Israeli forces broke international law when they raided the flotilla. That report was prepared in September by three human rights experts appointed by the UN's top human rights body. He also warned Israel that it risked alienation among Arab nations by resisting an apology.

Later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country does not have to apologise for the deadly raid, but he expressed regret for the loss of nine Turkish lives and said he hopes ties with Turkey can be mended. They were his first public remarks since Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador on Friday.

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