Turkey hit back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for condemning Ankara’s invasion of Syrian Kurdistan, deriding the Israeli premier as a future jailbird.
Netanyahu on Thursday said in a statement that he “strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies.”
He said Israel was prepared to send humanitarian aid to the “gallant Kurdish people.”
In response Fahrettin Altun, communications director for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dismissed Netanyahu’s comments.
“Empty words of a disgraced politician looking at many years in prison on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges,” Altun wrote on Twitter.
“The Syrian Kurds, including the 300,000 exiles in Turkey, are under Turkish protection. We will eliminate all terrorists in the area and help Syrians return home,” Altun said.
Empty words of a disgraced politician looking at many years in prison on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges.
The Syrian Kurds, including the 300,000 exiles in Turkey, are under Turkish protection. We will eliminate all terrorists in the area and help Syrians return home. https://t.co/0058likura
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) October 10, 2019
On Wednesday, Turkey launched a broad assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria, with intensive bombardment paving the way for a ground offensive made possible by the withdrawal of US troops.
Turkish jets on Thursday pounded the region with airstrikes and an artillery bombardment that raised columns of black smoke in a border town and sent panicked civilians scrambling to get out.
The offensive has drawn wide international condemnation, including from Israel, some of whom have called for an independent Kurdish state.
Netanyahu and Erdogan frequently spar verbally, though chilly ties between Ankara and Jerusalem remain in place.
The Israeli leader has in the past accused Erdogan of slaughtering Kurds. The Turkish leader has accused Netanyahu of massacring Palestinians.
The offensive displaced more than 60,000 people in less than a day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Erdogan said that so far, 109 “terrorists” were killed in the offensive, a reference to the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Earlier Thursday, Erdogan warned the European Union not to call Ankara’s incursion into Syria an “invasion.” He threatened, as he has in the past, to “open the gates” and let Syrian refugees flood into Europe.
Ankara considers members of the Kurdish militia to be “terrorists” because of their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has led an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The US and other Western countries also consider the PKK a terrorist group.