Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Friday said it summoned the highest-ranking Israeli diplomat in Ankara to explain why a group of Turkish journalists and civil society workers were refused entry at Ben Gurion Airport, according to Reuters.
A group of nine Turks had traveled to Israel on Thursday to attend an event marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara said in an e-mailed statement.
They were questioned for nine hours and, despite having the required visas, seven of them were sent back, according to Turkey. Two journalists with the state TRT broadcaster were allowed in, it said, condemning the decision to eject the group.
An official from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) told Reuters those denied entry were suspected of having links to the Hamas terrorist group.
"In light of a connection found between them and activists from the Hamas terrorist organization and the risk created by their entrance to Israel, it was decided not to let them in," the official said.
The Foreign Ministry in Turkey said, "To show our reaction to the treatment of our citizens and to receive an explanation, the Israeli charge d'affaires has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry.”
Israel's Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Israeli charge d'affaires was summoned in Ankara over the incident and said seven Turkish citizens were denied entry for security reasons.
Israel’s relations with Turkey have been strained over the past several years, coinciding with a foreign policy shift in Turkey as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Prime Minister and today President, attempted to position his government as a leading force in the Muslim world.
Ties worsened in 2010, when a flotilla manned by armed Turkish Islamists attempted to breach the IDF's blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israeli commandos were violently attacked as they intercepted the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, prompting them to open fire.
Nine Turks died in the raid and one more died in hospital in 2014 after four years in a coma; several IDF soldiers were also injured in the clashes.
After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid whatsoever, despite claims otherwise by the Islamists.
In response to the incident, Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador, demanded a formal apology and compensation and an end to the blockade on Gaza, which was ruled as legal by the 2011 UN Palmer Report.
Talks on compensation began in 2013 after Israel extended a formal apology to Turkey in a breakthrough brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The incident at Ben Gurion Airport took place a day after Turkey confirmed it was holding talks with Israel over a deal to reconcile the two former allies.
"It's quite normal for the two countries to talk for the normalization of the ties. How can reconciliation be achieved without holding any meetings?" Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.
Cavusoglu's comments came a day after reports that Israeli and Turkish officials had held secret talks in Rome on Monday in a bid to restore relations between the two countries.
Cavusoglu confirmed such a contact had been made and added, "These meetings are not new. Expert-level talks have been held between the two countries for a while."
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)