Turkey on Monday “strongly” condemned last week’s vandalism in a Latrun monastery and called on Israel to bring the culprits to justice, a jab likely to further harm already strained bilateral relations.
“We call on Israeli authorities to take effective and decisive measures to ensure that these attacks, which are by no means compatible with religious tolerance, are not repeated and to bring those responsible for these attacks before justice,” a statement issued by Ankara’s Foreign Ministry read.
Early last week, vandals spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on the walls and doors of the Monastery of the Silent Monks in Latrun, including the words “Jesus is a monkey.” It is widely assumed that extremist settlers were behind the so-called price tag attack, seeking revenge for the government’s dismantling of West Bank outposts.
The incident was harshly condemned by leading politicians from all sides of the Israeli political spectrum, including leaders of the settlement movement.
No arrests have been made so far. Police spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that the investigation was ongoing.
Relations between Ankara and Jerusalem have been frosty since May 2010, when Israeli naval commandos intercepted a flotilla launched from Turkey seeking to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza. When the commandos were attacked trying to board one of the vessels, they opened fire and killed nine Turkish activists. Ankara said relations with Israel would improve only when Jerusalem apologizes for the flotilla deaths.
Last month, Turkey accused the Israeli government of exploiting the ongoing Syrian civil war to advance its settlement enterprise, after Jerusalem announced the construction of 130 new housing units in East Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood, which is located beyond the Green Line.