A Turkish court on Nov. 6 opened a trial in absentia for former Israeli military commanders accused of killing nine Turkish citizens aboard a ship attempting to pass through the Gaza blockade in 2010. The Turkish judge began the proceedings with testimony from people who were on board the flotilla, as well as from relatives of the deceased. Prosecutors have demanded life in prison for the Israeli commanders involved in the May 2010 raid to enforce the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The case illustrates tension between Turkey and Israel, which have previously maintained close diplomatic ties. Israel has criticized the trial of the four Israeli commanders, dismissing the proceedings as politically motivated. Hundreds of protestors showed up outside the courthouse to voice their opposition to the actions of the commanders. Turkey has demanded an end to the Gaza blockade, a formal apology and compensation for the victims and their family.
Turkey's parliament in an emergency session on Oct. 4 authorized military action against Syria following deadly cross-border fire—while insisting it was not a war mandate. The vote came as Turkey retaliated for shelling that killed five Turkish nationals. An artillery shell fired from Syria during the clashes between government forces and the Free Syrian Army there landed on a house in the district of Akçakale in the southeastern province of Urfa; a mother and her four children lost their lives, and another 13 people were injured. Although shells have fallen across the border before, it marked the first time that Turkish citizens were killed by Syrian fire. Although Damascus issued an apology, Turkish retaliatory fire continues, killing several Syrian soldiers. An evacuation of Akçakale has been ordered.
As urban warfare rages in Damascus and Aleppo, presumed rebel gunmen abducted 47 Iranian pilgrims just outside the capital on Aug. 4. The pilgrims were on a bus taking them from the Shi'ite shrine of Sayyida Zainab, about 10 miles south of Damascus, to the airport to return home when they were kidnapped, according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA. Dubai's Al-Arabiya television aired footage it said it had obtained from Syrian rebels of the captive Iranians, in which the captors charge that they are not actually pilgrims, but members of the Revolutionary Guard.