The kestrel was discovered by residents of Altinavya, a village in Elazig province, wearing a metallic ring stamped with the words “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel”. Suspicious that the bird may have been on a spying mission for the Jewish state, villagers turned the bird over to local authorities, according to Turkish media.
So great was the level of concern medical personnel at Elazig’s Firat University initially identified the kestrel as “Israeli Spy” in their registration documents. Intensive medical examinations - including X-rays - determined that the bird was, indeed, just a bird. There were no sign of microchips that might transmit information back to Israel, local media reported. The kestrel was allowed to fly off after authorities determined there was no need to press charges.
Yet the incident shows the degree of paranoia and xenophobia regarding Israel that exists among large segments of Turkish society. It comes as talks between Turkey and Israel over compensation for families of those killed in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident have stalled.
Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed on May 31, 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish vessel carrying aid to the embargoed Gaza Strip.
Ties between the countries suffered until United States President Barack Obama brokered a reconciliation between the two sides during a visit to Israel earlier this year.