Turkey hits back, saying Israel ‘massacres thousands of Palestinians’
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Turkey hits back, saying Israel ‘massacres thousands of Palestinians’

War of words between Jerusalem and Ankara heats up; Netanyahu accused Erdogan of bombing Kurdish civilians and helping terrorists kill innocent people

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) greets members of the Muslim community during his visit to Komotini, northeast Greece, on December 8, 2017.
(AFP/str)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) greets members of the Muslim community during his visit to Komotini, northeast Greece, on December 8, 2017. (AFP/str)

PARIS — Ankara on Sunday evening shot back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier in the day accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of bombing Kurdish civilians and helping terrorists kill innocent people.

The bitter exchange between Turkey and Israel comes amid mounting tension over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“It is not possible to take seriously the allegations and accusations made by a mentality which massacred thousands of Palestinians, turned the lands of the Palestinians into an open-air prison, in order to suppress its guilt,” Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Israeli PM Netanyahu’s remarks targeting the Republic of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Kalın said in a written statement.

Israel disregards international law, has “occupied Palestinian people’s hundreds-of-years-old homeland and systematically violates United Nations resolutions,” the statement said, adding that Israel “must first account for its own actions.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters chant slogans against US and Israel as they wave Turkish and Palestinian flags on December 10, 2017, during a demonstration in Istanbul. (AFP/Yasin Akgul)

“Those, who think they will make Al-Quds, our first Qibla, the capital of the occupying state, are wasting their time. Israeli authorities should end the occupation of Palestinian lands instead of attacking our country and our leader. The Republic of Turkey will continue to stand by what is right, the law and the oppressed in Palestine as it does across the world.”

The statement referred to Jerusalem as the original Qibla — the direction in which Muslims turned in prayer for 13 years before reorienting it to Mecca.

Earlier on Sunday, during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Netanyahu said Turkey’s president was a brutal dictator who supports Palestinian terrorist groups in their efforts to “kill innocent people.”

“I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people,” said Netanyahu.

Israel has long pressed Turkey to end its support for Hamas and not allow Hamas members to live in Turkey.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) speaks as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a joint news conference following their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on December 10, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Philippe Wojazer)

Netanyahu’s comments were themselves a response to Erdogan who vowed to use “all means to fight” against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

“Palestine is an innocent victim… As for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist!” Erdogan said. “We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.”

The Turkish leader has employed sharp rhetoric against Israel almost daily in the wake of Trump officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On Saturday, Erdogan described Israel as a “state of occupation” that used “terror” against the Palestinians.

Israel and Turkey only last year restored diplomatic relations after years of frozen diplomatic ties in the wake of the so-called flotilla incident. In May 2010, Israeli troops raided the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship, which was trying to break the Israeli security blockade on the Hamas-run Strip, and killed nine Turkish nationals aboard who attacked them violently. Israel has apologized and pledged to pay reparations to the families of the deceased.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017 as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

In a White House speech last week, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum.

The change in longstanding US policy has sparked demonstrations across the Muslim world and led to days of unrest in the West Bank and Gaza.

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