Turkey's Erdogan calls Israel "terror state" over Palestinian clashes at Al-Aqsa

Tension over possible eviction of several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood
·2 min read

ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a "terror state" on Saturday after Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youth at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday.

He added that Ankara had launched initiatives to mobilise international institutions.

The clashes at Islam's third-holiest site and around East Jerusalem, which injured at least 205 Palestinians and 17 police officers, came amid mounting anger over the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers. Israel's Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the case on Monday.

Speaking at an event in Istanbul, Erdogan called on all Muslim countries and the international community to take "effective" steps against Israel, adding that those who remain silent were "a party to the cruelty there."

"The cruel Israel, terror state Israel is mercilessly and unethically attacking Muslims in Jerusalem," Erdogan said.

He added that Turkey had "immediately launched the necessary initiatives to get the United Nations, Organisation for Islamic Cooperation and all relevant institutions to take action."

Several Turkish officials criticised Israel late on Friday as clashes erupted, and most opposition parties echoed the condemnations, in a rare sign of unity.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Israel's foreign ministry. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that law and order would be maintained in Jerusalem as would the right to worship.

Hundreds of people crowded outside Israel's embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul late on Friday, despite a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, in protest of the violence in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa.

Turkey has condemned what it said was Israel's "systematic attempt at evicting Palestinians", referring to the long-running legal case. Erdogan on Saturday called for evictions to be halted.

"Otherwise, we will do everything we can to ensure the cruel are sentenced to the fate they deserve," he warned, without elaborating.

Former allies Turkey and Israel have had a bitter falling-out in recent years despite strong commercial ties, mutually expelling ambassadors in 2018.

Ankara has repeatedly condemned Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians, while playing down prospects of a rapprochement amid sharp policy differences.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said any rapprochement between the two sides was unlikely as long as Israeli policies towards Palestinians continued, and Erdogan has said that while Ankara would like to improve ties with Israel, it cannot abandon its Palestinian policy.

On Friday, Cavusoglu held talks in Ankara with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu;Editing by Helen Popper and Dan Grebler)

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