US military beefs up security at Turkey installation ahead of protests
Stars and Stripes November 3, 2023
The U.S. military is heightening protection at Incirlik Air Base in anticipation of protests this weekend at the installation near Adana, Turkey, that could see tens of thousands of marchers.
Convoys of Turks were headed to the base Friday to prepare for demonstrations for “the freedom of Palestine,” protest organizer Bulent Yildirim said.
Yildirim leads the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, an organization with ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Earlier this week, Yildirim called for “hundreds of thousands of people” to make their way to Incirlik.
Expected to run Friday through Sunday, the demonstrations will denounce U.S. support for Israel, which has launched a ground invasion into Gaza in response to Hamas’ attack Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,400 people in Israel.
U.S. European Command said the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik was “devising appropriate safety protocols” to ensure the safety of its personnel.
“The safety and well-being of our airmen, families and community remain the forefront of our concerns,” EUCOM spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Gaby Gocso said in a statement Thursday. “We urge all members to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities.”
Gosco said military officials are expecting large demonstrations throughout Turkey for the next several weeks.
The U.S. military presence in Turkey long has been a political flashpoint when disputes emerge between the countries.
In the past, top Turkish officials have threatened to cut off American access at Incirlik over disagreements related to everything from Turkey’s acquisition of a Russian missile defense system several years ago to Ankara’s military operations in northern Syria.
It’s unclear whether similar high-level threats will materialize in connection with U.S. support for Israel in its war against Hamas. However, the U.S. and Turkey are on opposite sides in the conflict.
On Tuesday, Erdogan suggested that Turkey could involve itself in some way.
“I believe that we should stop Israel, which looks as if it’s completely out of its mind and lost it, as soon as possible,” Erdogan said in a statement. “We will ensure that those responsible for war crimes in Gaza will face justice.”