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Turkey Criticizes Israel over Response to Palestinian Protests

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against Israel near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, late May 9, 2021.

Mosques across Turkey broadcast prayers Monday in support of Palestinians injured in violent confrontations with Israeli police in Jerusalem. The unrest, which coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, comes amid the possible eviction of Palestinians from east Jerusalem homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.

Also Monday, hundreds of people, many waving Palestinian flags, massed in front of Israel’s consulate in Istanbul in protest of Israeli police actions around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

Witnesses reported Israeli security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades at Palestinian demonstrators, some of whom threw rocks at police.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an event in Ankara, May 8, 2021. In a speech late Saturday, Erdogan, strongly condemned violence in Jerusalem.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an event in Ankara, May 8, 2021. In a speech late Saturday, Erdogan, strongly condemned violence in Jerusalem.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communication chief, Fahrettin Altun, Monday tweeted, “It’s time to stop Israel’s heinous and cruel attacks.”

His comments come two days after Erdogan denounced Israel.

"Israel, the cruel terrorist state, attacks the Muslims in Jerusalem, whose only concern is to protect their homes and their sacred values, in a savage manner devoid of ethics," Erdogan said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday Israel “will continue to maintain freedom of worship for all faiths, but we will not allow violent disturbances.” The Israeli leader told a cabinet meeting that he had met with security officials and vowed to “enforce law and order decisively and responsibly.”

Ankara had been looking to repair strained relations with Israel as part of a broader strategy to end its regional isolation. Both countries withdrew ambassadors in 2018 over Israel’s crackdown on protests by Palestinians.

Relations also soured in 2010 after Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-owned ship that was part of a flotilla trying to break an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard were killed.

Turkish presidential adviser Mesut Casin, while condemning the recent violence, says a reset in bilateral ties is still possible but says Washington needs to act.

"This is unacceptable during the prayers of the Muslims in the very important religious time, during the Ramazan (Ramadan); it is an unacceptable situation," Casin said. "So the radical groups do not want to normalize Turkey-Israel relations. However, Turkey-Israel economic relations are in good condition; why we not do change to normalize diplomatic relations. This depends also on a little bit of Washington to control some of the unlawful actions.”

The United States has voiced concern over the violence in Israel, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaking by phone Sunday with Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat, according to the White House. A statement said Sullivan expressed the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s security and to supporting peace and stability throughout the Middle East.