Naval power: Israel and Turkey

Diplomatic standoff threatens to engulf the Mediterranean states, which are US allies and regional military powers.

    A French ship, Dignite al Karama, is trailed by small Israeli navy vessels during the Gaza Flotilla II campaign [EPA]

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has threatened to send warships to escort aid convoys to Gaza, challenging Israel's naval blockade of the enclave and raising the prospect of a confrontation between the two major US allies.

    Erdogan's remarks were the latest escalation of tensions since Ankara downgraded diplomatic ties in a dispute over Israel's killing nine Turks in a raid to stop a flotilla from sailing to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip last year.

    Turkish naval facts:

    * The Turkish navy helped evacuate thousands of foreigners and wounded people from Libya during the civil conflict there in early 2011, using frigates to escort ferries.

    Israel Turkey
    Submarines 3 14
    Anti-submarine vessels 2 n/a
    Special marines forces boats 14 24
    Missile corvettes 3 n/a
    Missile/fast patrol boats 10 26
    Mine warfare vessels n/a 69
    Frigates n/a 23
    Patrol craft 57 98
    Landing craft 3 46

    * Turkey also offered four frigates, a submarine and a support ship for a mission to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya.

    * The Turkish navy has deployed off the Somali coast to prevent pirates hijacking ships under a memorandum which the government presented to parliament in 2009. Turkish ships have been among those hijacked by pirates in the region.
     
    * Naval ships and aircraft from Turkey, Israel and the United States have held humanitarian search and rescue exercises in recent years. But Ankara refrained from taking part in these in the last two years due to strains in ties with Israel.

    * The Turkish navy was involved in a standoff with Greek forces in 1996 over an uninhabited islet in the Aegean Sea, the scene of territorial disputes between the two countries.

    Israeli naval facts:

    * Israel's navy last confronted enemy forces in the 1973 Middle East War, engaging the Syrian and Egyptian navies.

    * Israel has had sporadic clashes with fighters off the Lebanese coast and an Israeli missile boat took a direct missile hit off the Lebanese coast during the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah.

    * The Israeli navy keeps up active patrols to enforce a blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    * Israel is also widely believed to have collected intelligence in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean using naval forces.

    * Like Turkey, Israel has diesel-powered submarines.

    * Israel's vessels are widely assumed to carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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