Israel decided Friday to pull some of its diplomatic staff out of Turkey in the wake of violent protests targeting the buildings of its embassy and consulate in Ankara and Istanbul, an embassy spokesman said, as well as recent statements that accused Israel of attempting a “systematic genocide” on the Palestinian people.
After protests against Operation Protective Edge in front of Israel’s missions in Ankara and Istanbul turned violent Thursday night, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman instructed Israeli diplomats stationed in Turkey to return home.
“It was decided to reduce our diplomatic representation in the country to a possible minimum,” Liberman said in a statement.
The violent protests broke out after inciteful speeches by Turkish Prime Minister (and currently presidential hopeful) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and because the country’s security forces did not properly fulfill their duty to prevent violence during such events, Liberman charged.
On Thursday, Erdoğan had fiercely attacked Israel’s operation against Hamas in Gaza.
“Since [Israel’s creation] in 1948, we have been witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every day and every month,” he said. “But above all, we are witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every Ramadan.”
Erdogan said the Israeli operation was derailing Turkish and Israeli efforts to mend ties.
Turkey’s foreign minister also “vehemently” condemned Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza.
On Twitter, Ahmet Davutoglu said the ground operation is testing “the conscience of humanity.”
Davutoglu called for emergency meetings of the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Israel vehemently protested Turkish authorities’ blatant and rude violation of diplomatic rules, including the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, during the protests, Liberman adds.
On Thursday night, hundreds of protesters attacked the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, while similar numbers sought to break into the residence of the ambassador in Ankara.
Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to halt the protests in Istanbul in the early hours of the morning, but in Ankara they stood on the sidelines.
The crowds in Istanbul, waving Palestinian flags, hurled stones and smashed the windows of the consulate in the upscale Levent district to denounce the Israeli military operation.
Rioters in front of the consulate chanted, “Fight! Martyrdom!”
Police pushed the crowd back at times, and many of the ruling AK Party MPs were in the crowd.
AFP contributed to this report.