Turkey on Monday recalled its ambassadors to Israel and the United States in protest of the Israeli military’s deadly response to riots on the Gaza border.
The announcement was made by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, who also declared three days of mourning over the 55 Palestinians the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said were killed in the riots.
“Israel is wreaking state terror. Israel is a terror state,” Erdogan told Turkish students in London in a speech broadcast by state television. “What Israel has done is a genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America.
“We will continue to stand with Palestinian people with determination,” he added.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Jerusalem was aware of reports on Turkey’s intention to recall its ambassador but had not received an official notice.
Turkey’s announcement came after South Africa announced the immediate recall of its ambassador to Israel in protest of the Gaza deaths.
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.
Erdogan, whom Israel has accused of providing aid to Hamas, the terror group that runs Gaza and backs the protests, said, “We will not allow today to be the day Muslim world loses Jerusalem.”
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 earlier that the move was a violation of international law.
Turkey’s decision to recall its envoys to Israel and the US came as thousands gathered in Ankara to condemn the US embassy relocation, burning American and Israeli flags, and protesting the deadly clashes along the Israel-Gaza border.
Demonstrators carried banners that read: “Al Quds belongs to the Muslims,” the Arabic name of Jerusalem. They chanted “God is great” and slogans calling for holy war and martyrdom. One speaker called Americans “dogs” as people shouted “Jerusalem is ours, it will be ours.”
The rally was called by pro-Islamic Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH, which Israel lists as a terror group.
In 2010, 10 Turks were killed in a melee after they attacked IDF troops who boarded an IHH-organized 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.