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Turkey closes airspace to some Israeli military flights

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey has closed its airspace to some Israeli military flights following a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, the Turkish prime minister and officials said yesterday. An official said civilian commercial flights were not affected.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Toronto that Turkey imposed a ban on Israeli flights after the May 31 raid on a Turkish ship that was part of a six-vessel international aid flotilla, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency. The prime minister, who was in Canada to attend a summit of the Group of 20 major industrial and developing nations, did not elaborate.

A Turkish government official said, however, that the ban was for Israeli military flights and that commercial flights were not affected. It was not a blanket ban and each flight request would be assessed case-by-case, the official added.

Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported Sunday that Turkey had not allowed a plane carrying Israeli military officers, en route to a tour of memorial sites in Auschwitz, Poland, to fly over Turkish airspace. The transport plane, with more than 100 officers on board, was forced to make a detour, the paper said.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed in the raid that drew Turkish outrage and widespread international condemnation.

Israel insists troops involved in the deadly raid acted in self-defense after being attacked by some on board.

Turkey, which had a close alliance with Israel until the three-week Gaza war, which ended in early 2009, withdrew its ambassador and canceled joint military drills in response to the raid.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the chief investigator into the May 31 raid said the five-member panel will summon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify.

Alongside Netanyahu, Israel's defense minister and military chief of staff will also face the commission investigating the events leading up to the raid, commission head Jacob Turkel told reporters.

The panel's main job, Turkel said, was to investigate whether Israel's actions leading up to the incident, which took place in international waters, "meet the norms of international law." He said public hearings would begin within weeks.

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