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May 15, 2018 6:11 pm

Turkey Ratchets Up Diplomatic Campaign Against Israel as Netanyahu Tells Erdoğan, ‘You Have Kurdish Blood on Your Hands’

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Thousands of Turkish Islamists marched against Israel in Istanbul and other cities. Photo: Reuters/Osman Orsal.

Turkey expelled the Israeli Ambassador to Ankara on Tuesday as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime launched a fresh round of rhetorical attacks against the Jewish state.

Eitan Naeh, the Israeli Ambassador, was ordered by the Turkish Foreign Ministry to return to Israel “for a while,” according to Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu news agency, citing unnamed sources. Naeh’s expulsion comes amid rallies in Istanbul and other cities in solidarity with Palestinian rioters who attempted to breach Israel’s border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Monday, as well as a spate of anti-Israel invective from Erdoğan and other Turkish leaders. In response, Israel confirmed that it had asked Hüsnü Gürcan Türkoğlu – Turkey’s consul-general in Jerusalem who liaises closely with the Palestinian Authority – to leave the country, which quickly brought about a Turkish reprisal in the form of an instruction to the Israel consul-general in Istanbul, Yossi Levi Safri, to return home immediately.

Thousands of demonstrators marched through Istanbul’s Taksim district on Tuesday afternoon, many of them chanting “Thousands of salutes to the resistance from Istanbul to Gaza.” The demonstration followed a similar gathering on Monday that was addressed by several Islamist leaders, among them Bülent Yıldırım – the chairman of the IHH organization that famously engineered a violent confrontation with Israeli naval officers enforcing the blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010.

But it was Erdoğan – one day after charging Israel with committing “genocide” in Gaza – who led the verbal charge again on Tuesday, smearing Israel as an “apartheid state” and accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having “the blood of Palestinians on his hands.”

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“Want a lesson in humanity? Read the 10 commandments,” the Turkish leader declared on Twitter.

Netanyahu responded by reminding Erdoğan of Turkey’s brutal campaign against Kurds in south-eastern Turkey and Syria. Since the start of 2018, more than 500 civilians have been killed by Turkish forces in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Syria, during a military onslaught that has witnessed numerous allegations of chemical weapons use, indiscriminate shooting of civilians, rape and other war crimes.

“The man who sends thousands of Turkish soldiers to maintain the occupation of northern Cyprus and invades Syria, will not preach to us when we defend ourselves against invasion by Hamas,” Netanyahu said of Erdoğan in a statement. “A man whose hands are drenched in the blood of countless Kurdish civilians in Turkey and Syria is the last one who can preach to us about military ethics.”

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım confirmed on Tuesday that a “giant rally” to express support for the Palestinians would be held on Friday in Istanbul’s Yenikapı district, coinciding with an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that has been called by Erdoğan.

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