Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to accusations from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Israel is committing “genocide” in the Gaza Strip, saying on Tuesday that as prime support of Hamas, the Turkish leader was himself involved in “terrorism and slaughter.”
The verbal clash came in the wake of a day of deadly violence in which dozens of Palestinians were killed during Hamas-organized confrontations with Israeli security forces on the Gaza border.
Erdogan said Monday that Israel is a “a terror state” that has committed “a genocide.” Turkey also recalled its ambassadors to Israel and the US for consultations on the situation.
In a response statement, Netanyahu said that “Erdogan is among Hamas’s biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us.”
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said Tuesday that 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were wounded the day before amid the biggest riots and rallies in a weeks-long campaign of protests against Israel, known collectively as the “March of Return.”
Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended Hamas-organized protests on the Gaza border and hundreds of others clashed with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in other locations in the West Bank, marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the relocation of the US embassy to Israel’s capital on Monday afternoon.
Israel said Hamas used the border protests to try to breach the fence and carry out attacks in Israeli territory. Citing Hamas sources, Hadashot TV news said 10 of the terror group’s members were killed in the clashes, including a son of its co-founder Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi. The IDF’s spokesman said Hamas deployed 12 separate terrorist “cells” to try to breach the border at different locations, and that all were rebuffed.
Speaking to Turkish students in London in a speech broadcast by state television Erdogan, whom Israel has accused of providing aid to Hamas, said Monday that “Israel is wreaking state terror. Israel is a terror state. What Israel has done is a genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America.”
Netanyahu and Erdogan last went head to head in April when the latter criticized Israel’s response to the first of the “March of Return” protests.
The Turkish president has positioned himself as a defender of the Palestinians and harshly criticized the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its relocation of its embassy to the city, saying that the move was a violation of international law.
In 2010, 10 Turks were killed in a melee after they attacked IDF troops who boarded a Gaza blockade-busting ship.
The raid led to a souring of ties between the two countries, once close economic and security partners. Diplomatic ties were fully restored when Ankara returned its envoy to Israel in December 2016, though they have remained frosty since.
Raphael Ahren and agencies contributed to this report.