Thousands of supporters of a conservative Turkish party rallied in Istanbul on Sunday to protest security measures taken by Israel in Jerusalem — removed last week — and show solidarity with the Palestinians.
Protesters waved Turkish and Palestinian flags Sunday at the “Great Jerusalem Meeting” in Istanbul. A jingle with the lyric “Hit, hit Zionists” played.
Israel installed metal detectors and cameras around the Temple Mount compound following a deadly July 14 attack that saw three Arab Israeli gunmen kill two Israeli police officers at the holy site with weapons smuggled into the compound.
The new security measures sparked mass protests by Muslim worshipers, who boycotted the compound for 12 days.
Late last week, Israel removed the security measures.
But tensions remain high in Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the removal of the detectors was “not enough.”
Sunday’s protest was called by the Saadet (Felicity) Party, which emerged from the same Islamic-rooted political movement as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Erdogan, but is seen as more religiously conservative.
The Islamist party’s leader, Temel Karamollaoglu, told the crowd that Muslims would not give up on Jerusalem.
Under the slogan of “Israel understands a show of strength,” the rally was held at the vast Yenikapi Square by the Sea of Marmara which has been the scene of many of Erdogan’s biggest meetings.
However there was no sign of any senior government official at the gathering.
The mass of people also chanted slogans such as “Istanbul and Jerusalem are arm-in-arm.”
“I hope that when they see how many people are here, then Israel will get the message,” said protester Sadik Sen. “We want to show to our Muslim brothers there that we are behind them.”
Improbably, Karamollaoglu had sent a letter of invitation to football star Cristiano Ronaldo. There was no sign of the Real Madrid and Portugal player.
Tensions between Israel and Turkey have been high since the showdown over the Temple Mount security measures. Erdogan had panned Israel for use of “excessive force” against Muslim worshipers during clashes in the area.
“Israeli soldiers are defiling Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple excuses to easily shed blood there,” he said at an AKP faction meeting last week, referring to the mosque that sits on the mount along with the Dome of the Rock.
Hitting back, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Erdogan of hypocrisy.
“It would be interesting to see what Erdogan would say to the residents of northern Cyprus or to the Kurds. Erdogan is the last person who can preach to Israel,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.