Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday urged all Muslims to visit and protect Jerusalem, after violence broke out over metal detectors that Israel had installed and later removed from a sensitive holy site in the city.
“From here, I make a call to all Muslims. Anyone who has the opportunity should visit Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Erdogan said in Ankara, adding: “Come, let’s all protect Jerusalem.”
He was referring to the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Erdogan welcomed a decision by Israel to remove metal detectors at the Jerusalem shrine, but said Turkey would not accept measures that treat Muslims wanting to pray as “terrorists.”
“What is being done now is using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to take al-Aqsa Mosque from the hands of Muslims. There is no other explanation,” he said.
On Saturday, Erdogan denounced as “excessive” the use of force by Israeli security forces in deadly clashes over the Temple Mount.
“I condemn Israel’s insistence on its position, despite all warnings… and the excessive use of force by Israeli forces against our brothers gathered for Friday prayers,” he said in a statement.
Erdogan said that he was speaking in his capacity as the current chairman of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whose chairmanship Turkey currently holds.
On Thursday, the Turkish leader had urged his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin to swiftly remove metal detectors to end the tensions.
Rivlin for his part urged Erdogan to condemn the killing of the officers.
Erdogan reaffirmed in the statement that the restrictions were “unacceptable” and should be removed “immediately.”
“I urge the international community to immediately take action to remove practices that restrict freedom of worship at Haram al-Sharif,” he said, referring to the Temple Mount compound.