Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday took another swing at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling him a “baby killer” amid a flurry of insults between top Turkish officials and the Israeli leader that began over the weekend.
Netanyahu is lashing out because he failed to divide Syria by using the armed Kurdish group Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, Cavusoglu said at a press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, Khemaies Jhinaoui, in Tunisia, where he was visiting.
“Netanyahu is worried because he discovered too late that he can’t divide Syria,” Cavusoglu said.
“Netanyahu and the PKK have something else in common — they are both baby killers,” he added.
The outlawed PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
It was the latest round in a verbal fracas that began on Saturday, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of assaulting innocents. Netanyahu responded, accusing Turkey of killing Kurds in the Syrian border region.
The insults continued throughout Sunday, with Cavusoglu saying, “The occupier that kicks people lying on the ground is easily offended,” in a Twitter post that included photos of what appeared to be a dead Palestinian and a Palestinian being arrested by IDF troops.
Erdogan himself said of Netanyahu, “You are an oppressor, cruel and at the head of state terror.”
Responding Sunday night, Netanyahu said Erdogan is an “anti-Semitic dictator” who is “obsessed with Israel.”
“He knows what a moral army is and he knows what a genuine democracy is, as opposed to an army that massacres women and children in Kurdish villages and a state that, to my regret, is becoming more dictatorial day by day,” he said.
Erdogan is a staunch supporter of the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas and longtime harsh critic of Israel who regularly likens its actions toward the Palestinians to the mass Nazi murder of Jews during the Holocaust.
Israel-Turkey relations have long been tense but reached a new nadir in May, in the aftermath of Israel’s response to violent protests on the Gaza border that were inspired by Hamas, and in which dozens of Palestinians were killed.
At the time, Erdogan placed the blame for the Gaza deaths squarely on Israel, accusing it of being a “terrorist state” that commits “genocide.” Then, too, Erdogan compared Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis. Turkey later recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and expelled Israel’s envoys.
Israel responded in kind, with Netanyahu saying Erdogan “well understands terrorism and slaughter” and should not lecture Israel about military ethics. Despite reports about Israeli-Turkish backchannel talks trying to restore diplomatic relations, none of the envoys who were recalled have returned to their respective postings.
On January 20, Ankara launched an air and ground offensive in the enclave of Afrin in Syria to root out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey brands a terrorist group but which is seen by the United States as a key player in the fight against Islamic State jihadists.
After US President Donald Trump abruptly announced last week he would withdraw all American troops from Syria, Erdogan on Friday vowed to drive out the US-backed Kurdish militia, as well as jihadists, from Syria.
US support for the YPG has strained ties between the two NATO allies.
Erdogan suggested Turkey could launch an operation against the YPG militia, which Ankara says is a “terrorist offshoot” of the PKK.
Israel is concerned that Iran and its proxy militias will work to fill the military vacuum left behind after the exit of US troops.