Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at Israel on Monday, accusing the Jewish state of killing children during its three-day operation against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the Gaza Strip.
The scathing criticism comes after two years of steadily warming relations between Jerusalem and Ankara.
“We condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza. There can be no excuse for killing children,” Erdogan said in comments carried by the official Anadolu news agency.
Erdogan stressed his support for the Palestinians, saying Turkey “stands alongside the Palestinian people and our brothers in Gaza,” and reiterated Turkish support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We stress that the site holy to us, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is our red line,” the Turkish president said, referring to Jewish pilgrims visiting the Temple Mount on Sunday to mark the fasting day of Tisha B’Av, which mourns the destruction of the temples that once stood at the Jerusalem holy site.
The Turkish leader’s criticism came after the country’s foreign ministry issued a statement over the weekend criticizing Israel over the Gaza strikes.
“It is unacceptable that civilians, including children, have lost their lives during the attacks,” the ministry said Saturday.
The statement followed reports of a rocket hitting a Palestinian home in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing at least seven civilians, including four children.
The incident was initially blamed on Israel by Palestinian media, but the Israeli military quickly said it had video and radar evidence that proved the blast was caused by a failed Islamic Jihad rocket launch.
It issued a video showing a barrage of rockets launched from the coastal enclave at Israel, including one which fell short.
Watch this failed rocket launch which killed children in Gaza.
This barrage of rockets was fired by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization in Gaza last night.
The rocket in the red circle misfired, killing Palestinian civilians—including children—in Jabaliya in northern Gaza. pic.twitter.com/55zSU3fsRY
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) August 7, 2022
For more than a decade, Turkey was one of Israel’s most bitter critics on the international stage. Ankara had also taken actions that angered officials in Jerusalem, most notably providing support and a haven for the Hamas terror group.
However, a rapprochement process has been underway since May 2020. That month, an El Al cargo plane landed in Turkey for the first time in a decade.
Both President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who was serving only as foreign minister at the time, have visited Turkey this year, and Israel’s senior leaders have spoken several times with Erdogan. The two sides are focused on signing a range of agreements as part of the upturn in bilateral ties.