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Protestors near Gezi Park are assaulted with water cannon after riot police moved in to clear the park and adjoining Taksim Square on Saturday. From the New York Times:

After 18 days of antigovernment demonstrations that presented a broad rebuke to the country’s leadership, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the riot police to storm the center of the protest movement in Gezi Park on Saturday evening, setting off a night of chaos in downtown Istanbul. 
As protesters fled the tear gas and water cannons, the police pursued them, in one case into a luxury hotel near the park where medics tended to people injured in the raid. 
Within hours, thousands of people began streaming downtown to protest the crackdown, setting bonfires on the city’s main boulevard as tear gas wafted through streets normally bustling on a Saturday night. 
Local officials said at least 44 people had been injured in the mayhem — the worst since the protests began — but their counts are often low. Some people sprawled on the floor of a makeshift clinic in a hotel ballroom complained of burns from chemicals in the jets of water shot from the water cannons. 
The crackdown came just a day after it appeared that Mr. Erdogan may have outflanked the protesters, whose complaints against the planned destruction of Gezi Park for an Ottoman- themed shopping mall grew into broader anger and nationwide protests over what critics call Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian style.  The wider protests began after the first police attack in the park, in Taksim Square. 
Facing the gravest political crisis in more than 10 years in power, Mr. Erdogan was initially defiant, but late last week attempted to halt the broader movement against him by offering a compromise on the razing of the park that included letting the courts decide what should happen. He won over the protest organizers, but they struggled to bring along the rank-and-file demonstrators, who vowed on Saturday to stay put.  Then, even as the organizers continued to try to work for a peaceful solution, Mr. Erdogan appeared to lose patience, sending in the police. 
It is unclear how the latest crackdown will play out in the wider population, given that Mr. Erdogan — who remains popular in many parts of the country — had first offered a compromise. But the brutality of the police assault already set off new demonstrations in Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara, and appeared to harden the resolve of the core protesters. 
“We will keep coming back,” said Tulay Bardak, 52, who had fled the park on Saturday night. “We will resist. It’s us against them. No amount of gas can keep us out of the park.”

(Photo: Yanis Behrakis / Reuters via the Times)

Protestors near Gezi Park are assaulted with water cannon after riot police moved in to clear the park and adjoining Taksim Square on Saturday. From the New York Times:

After 18 days of antigovernment demonstrations that presented a broad rebuke to the country’s leadership, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the riot police to storm the center of the protest movement in Gezi Park on Saturday evening, setting off a night of chaos in downtown Istanbul.

As protesters fled the tear gas and water cannons, the police pursued them, in one case into a luxury hotel near the park where medics tended to people injured in the raid.

Within hours, thousands of people began streaming downtown to protest the crackdown, setting bonfires on the city’s main boulevard as tear gas wafted through streets normally bustling on a Saturday night.

Local officials said at least 44 people had been injured in the mayhem — the worst since the protests began — but their counts are often low. Some people sprawled on the floor of a makeshift clinic in a hotel ballroom complained of burns from chemicals in the jets of water shot from the water cannons.

The crackdown came just a day after it appeared that Mr. Erdogan may have outflanked the protesters, whose complaints against the planned destruction of Gezi Park for an Ottoman- themed shopping mall grew into broader anger and nationwide protests over what critics call Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian style.  The wider protests began after the first police attack in the park, in Taksim Square.

Facing the gravest political crisis in more than 10 years in power, Mr. Erdogan was initially defiant, but late last week attempted to halt the broader movement against him by offering a compromise on the razing of the park that included letting the courts decide what should happen. He won over the protest organizers, but they struggled to bring along the rank-and-file demonstrators, who vowed on Saturday to stay put.  Then, even as the organizers continued to try to work for a peaceful solution, Mr. Erdogan appeared to lose patience, sending in the police.

It is unclear how the latest crackdown will play out in the wider population, given that Mr. Erdogan — who remains popular in many parts of the country — had first offered a compromise. But the brutality of the police assault already set off new demonstrations in Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara, and appeared to harden the resolve of the core protesters.

“We will keep coming back,” said Tulay Bardak, 52, who had fled the park on Saturday night. “We will resist. It’s us against them. No amount of gas can keep us out of the park.”

(Photo: Yanis Behrakis / Reuters via the Times)

Turkey’s leader offered protesters concessions early Friday, officials and protesters said, in a step that may help quiet the demonstrations that have swept the country for two weeks.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a delegation of protesters in a closed-door meeting in Ankara that he would be willing to soften his approach to redevelopment in Istanbul’s central Gezi Park, the issue that originally sparked demonstrations. Erdogan said that he will not press ahead with razing the park while a court case to stop the construction is pending, saying that if he wins the court case, he will put the matter to a referendum in Istanbul, according to a spokesman and a member of an umbrella group for protesters.

Protesters hailed the move as a positive step hours after Erdogan had warned that his patience for the demonstrations was running out.

“The prime minister said that if the results of the public vote turned out in a way which would leave this area as a park, they will abide by it,” Tayfun Kahraman, a member of Taksim Solidarity, the umbrella protest group told reporters after the meeting, Reuters reported.

“His comments that the project will not be executed until the judiciary makes its decision is tonight’s positive result,” Kahraman said.

Erdogan’s decision was confirmed by a spokesman for his Justice and Development Party.

It was unclear whether the decision would be enough to put an end to the protests, which are largely leaderless and comprised of demands that range far beyond the issue over the park. Many on Thursday said the meeting with representatives from Taksim Solidarity was a positive step, but the group does not speak on behalf of all the protesters. Members of the delegation in Ankara said that they would take the news back to Taksim Square on Friday to see what the thousands of people encamped there thought of the decision.

The Washington Post, "Erdogan Offers Concessions to Turkey’s Protesters"

Riot police once again used tear gas and water cannon at around 8:20 p.m against protesters that had gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

Dozens of riot police were seen surrounding all the roads leading to the square. Some injuries were reported by private broadcaster CNNTürk as ambulances were dispatched to the site.

The governor of Istanbul said via Twitter a few minutes after intervention that “marginal groups” had attacked the police who were stationed in front of the Atatürk Cultural Center, by the Taksim Square.

“I plead with citizens at the site to separate themselves from this marginal group and abandon the square. It is important that our demand is carried out for everyone’s security,” Hüseyin Avni Mutlu wrote, calling on citizens “not to worry”.

Television footage showed a few protesters near the AKM building throwing fireworks at police officers.

A van parked to boost cell phone reception was burning dangerously in the middle of the square.

Another two fires have also been set in the square, one in front of the Atatürk Cultural Center and the other at the edge of the construction zone for the ongoing controversial pedestrianization project.

The Hurriyet Daily News, "Police UseTear Gas and Enter Taksim Square for Second Time In a Day"

Protestors clash with Turkish riot police in Istanbul, June 3, 2013, during a demonstration. Turkish police began pulling out of Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square after a second day of violent clashes between protesters and police.  What began as a protest over a controversial development project have broadened into a show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP.  (Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP - Getty Images via NBC News)

Protestors clash with Turkish riot police in Istanbul, June 3, 2013, during a demonstration. Turkish police began pulling out of Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square after a second day of violent clashes between protesters and police.  What began as a protest over a controversial development project have broadened into a show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP.  (Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP - Getty Images via NBC News)

In a phone call today with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey over a 2010 Israeli raid of a flotilla that left nine people dead. The flotilla was attempting to break an Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, when it was intercepted by Israel.

"PM Netanyahu made it clear that the tragic Consequences of the Mavi Marmara flotilla were not intended & that Israel is sorry for loss of life," Ofir Gendelman, the prime minister’s spokesman said on Twitter. "PM Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish ppl for any mistake that could have led to loss of life, agreed to complete the compensation agreement."

This is a tremendous diplomatic breakthrough. As we’ve reported, back in September of 2011, Erdogran said the raid in international waters was “cause for war.” Israel had refused to apologize since the incident.

In September of 2011, a United Nations panel found Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal but that the raid was “excessive and unreasonable.”

According to a senior White House official, Erdogan accepted the apology. Another senior administration official said this was a “first step” toward normalization of relations between the two countries.

The phone call between Netanyahu and Erdogan took place in a trailer at the Tel-Aviv airport where President Obama was taking off for Amman. The senior administration official said at one point Obama jumped in on the call.

NPR, "Israel Apologizes to Turkey Over 2010 Flotilla Raid."

Wow.  There’s no way to overstate the significance of this.