A pair of Israeli journalists were attacked in Istanbul on Wednesday amid the sharp deterioration in ties between Turkey and Israel over clashes on the Gaza border and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Ohad Hemo, Palestinian affairs correspondent for Hadashot TV news, and cameraman Oded Bino were reporting from Istanbul’s Taksim Square when they were accosted.
“A group of Turks recognized the ‘Hadashot’ logo and the language [Hebrew] in which we were speaking. They stood and yelled ‘murderers, murderers’ and then a few started pushing us,” said Hemo. “One of them started really hitting my cameraman.”
Hemo said the two then left the square. “Bino is OK, he’s in a lot of pain,” he said, though neither required medical treatment.
Hemo said the incident was indicative of the “strong anti-Israel atmosphere here” following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fierce broadsides against Israel.
“In a sense the incident symbolizes the mood, the atmosphere here in Istanbul. Another crisis in ties between Turkey and Israel. Again you hear Erdogan and his associates orchestrating this thing and encouraging people to demonstrate and protest,” he said.
Hemo said he and Bino filed a complaint with Turkish police, who he praised for their “determination” in trying to track down the attackers.
Turkey on Monday recalled its ambassadors from Israel and the United States in protest of Israel’s handling of the border riots, which came the same day as the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 60 Palestinians were killed in Monday’s clashes. Israel said many of those killed were members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terror groups who were using the violent protests as cover to carry out attacks and damage the border fence. Hamas said Wednesday that 50 of the dead were its members.
Slamming the Israeli response, Erdogan said Monday that Israel is “a terror state” that has committed “a genocide.” Netanyahu hit back a day later, saying that as a prime supporter of Hamas, the Turkish leader was himself involved in “terrorism and slaughter.”
“A man who sends thousands of Turkish soldiers to maintain the occupation of Northern Cyprus and invades Syria will preach to us as we defend ourselves from infiltration attempt by Hamas,” he added in an official statement. “A man whose hands are stained with the blood of countless Kurdish citizens in Turkey and Syria is the last to preach to us about military ethics.”
Erdogan, in a rare post in English to his personal Twitter account, retorted that “Netanyahu is the PM of an apartheid state that has occupied a defenseless people’s lands for 60+ yrs in violation of UN resolutions. He has the blood of Palestinians on his hands and can’t cover up crimes by attacking Turkey”
The Turkish president added, “Want a lesson in humanity? Read the 10 commandments.”
Following Netanyahu’s criticism, Turkey expelled Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, prompting Israel to do the same to Turkey’s consul to Jerusalem to leave the country. Turkey, in turn, ordered Israel’s consul in Istanbul to leave Turkey.
The feud continued on Wednesday, with the Foreign Ministry dressing down a senior Turkish envoy over the “humiliation” hours earlier of Na’eh as he boarded a flight to Tel Aviv.
Na’eh underwent a strict security screening at Istanbul’s airport that required him to take off his shoes. Turkish press was invited to film the spectacle, prompting Israel to respond in kind.
“The Turkish chargé d’affairs in Tel Aviv was summoned for a dressing down,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, inviting Israeli journalists to film Umut Deniz’s entrance to the Foreign Ministry building in Jerusalem at 1 p.m. and stating the exact gate through which he would be entering.
Upon Deniz’s arrival at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, a security guard inspected his passport and diplomatic documents and subjected him to a security screening.
“The meeting was held by the director of the Southern Europe Department, Iris Ambor, who expressed to the chargé d’affairs our strong protest of the outrageous Turkish conduct, and added that Israel won’t tolerate such treatment of its delegates,” ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said after the meeting.
Amid the diplomatic spat, Erdogan on Tuesday met with representatives of Neturei Karta, a fringe group that rejects Zionism and the State of Israel on religious grounds and whose members participated in a government-sponsored Holocaust denial conference in Tehran.
Agencies contributed to this report.