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Israel recalls diplomats from Turkey after Erdoğan’s controversial speech

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Israel has recalled its diplomats from Turkey, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said.

The recall follows a speech given on Saturday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a large pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul,

Erdoğan told the crowd of demonstrators, without naming a specific country, that Western governments are the main culprit behind the “massacre” in the besieged Gaza Strip.

“Given the grave statements coming from Turkey, I have ordered the return of diplomatic representatives there in order to conduct a re-evaluation of the relations between Israel and Turkey,” Cohen wrote Saturday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

However, according to broadcaster NTV, the Israeli ambassador to Ankara, Irit Lillian, and other embassy staff had already left the country more than a week ago.

The Turkish leader said, “Everyone knows that Israel is just a pawn in the region that will be sacrificed when the day comes.”

Erdoğan accused Israel of “committing a war crime” and Western politicians of “legitimising” the actions against the Palestinian coastal strip.

“How many more children, women, elderly need to die so that you can call for a ceasefire?” he said, wearing a scarf in the colours of Palestinian and Turkish flags.

Erdoğan has hardened his tone against Israel this week.

He cancelled plans to visit Israel and called the Hamas militant group, which controls Gaza, freedom fighters not terrorists.

Turkey has a historical duty to defend the rights of Palestinians, Erdoğan said, urging Israel to keep the “door for dialogue” open.

Many experts believe Erdoğan’s harsh rhetoric against Israel is aimed at defusing domestic anger, in light of his proposed mediator role in negotiating with Hamas for the release of hostages.

Erdogan’s comments stand in stark contrast to the stances of Western countries, which have offered strong support for Israel since Hamas led an attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The attack killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and took more than 220 others, both civilians and soldiers, back to Gaza as captives.

Even before that attack, the United States, the European Union and other countries considered Hamas a terrorist organisation.

But Erdogan’s criticism of Israel’s response – which has included urging more than a million Gazans to flee to the seaside enclave’s southern half, and a heavy bombing campaign that has heavily damaged civilian neighborhoods— reflected sentiments that have become common in parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The Israeli bombardment has killed more than 6,500 people, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas and has been massing its troops on the border of Gaza for a possible ground invasion.

Its military says that it takes precautions to avoid killing civilians but that Hamas makes this more difficult by mixing its forces in with the civilian population.

Turkey has had turbulent relations with Israel during Erdogan’s two decades as its dominant politician, often tied to Erdogan’s anger over the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

But recently, Erdogan made steps at rapprochement with the Jewish state.

Last year, Turkey welcomed Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, in Ankara, the capital, the first such visit by an Israeli head of state since 2008.

In a separate visit, the Israeli defense minister met with his Turkish counterpart, and the officials vowed to resume working relations.

dpa/NAN

 

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