In response to the killing of 16 Palestinians by the Israeli army following clashes during a demonstration on March 30 on the Gaza-Israeli border, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Israel of being a "terrorist state and occupier," and its army of "inhuman cruelty" in its crackdown on Palestinian protesters.
“Oppressor Israel and its army are only courageous against the oppressed in Gaza, Jerusalem, they are cowards when it comes to facing others,” Erdogan said at a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) congress in the southern province of Adana on April 1, addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu according to Turkey's Hurriyet.
“He says our soldiers are oppressing people in Afrin. Netanyahu, you are very weak, very poor. We [Turkey] are dealing with terrorists. But you are not concerned about terrorists because you are a terror state,” Erdoğan said. Calling the Israeli leader “an occupier” in Palestine, Erdogan said Netanyahu has no right to criticize Turkey.
“You are not popular. The step you took regarding Jerusalem at the United Nations is out in the open. The answer you received is out in the open. Stop bragging about owning nuclear weapons. The time may come when those weapons don’t work,” Erdoğan added.
"You are also a terrorist. History is recording what you have done to all those oppressed Palestinians,” Erdoğan said, adding that he believes Israelis too are disturbed by Netanyahu’s misdeeds.
Erdogan's harsh language came after tens of thousands of Palestinians marched to Gaza’s border with Israel on March 30; at least 16 were killed and hundreds injured when Israeli forces opened fire on protesters marking “Land Day.” Land Day is an annual Palestinian commemoration of the deaths of six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli forces in 1976 during demonstrations over government land confiscations in northern Israel.
March 30’s rallies were the start of a six-week protest that culminates on May 15, the day the Palestinians call “Nakba,” or “the Catastrophe,” when Israel was founded.
“Israel will get trapped under the oppression it inflicts in Palestine. We will continue to support our Palestinian sisters and brothers in their rightful cause until the very end,” Erdogan wrote earlier Saturday on social media.
To be sure, Israel responded: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised his voice and hit back at Erdoğan shortly after the sharp criticism of Israel.
“The most moral army in the world will not be lectured to on morality from someone who for years has been bombing civilians indiscriminately,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
הצבא המוסרי בעולם לא יקבל הטפות מוסר ממי שבמשך שנים מפציץ אוכלוסיה אזרחית ללא אבחנה. כנראה שכך מציינים באנקרה את ה-1 באפריל.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) April 1, 2018
Erdoğan said a total of 3,844 terrorists have been “neutralized” since the start of “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin region. “We will not stop until the last terrorist is wiped out from our region" he added. Turkey launched the sarcastically named "Operation Olive Branch" on Jan. 20 to clear Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants from Afrin near Turkey’s border with Syria. As we reported recently, two weeks ago Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army and Turkish troops entered the town center of Afrin, which had been controlled by the YPG since 2012.
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Meanwhile, Reuters reported that on Sunday, Israel’s defense minister rejected calls for an inquiry into the killing of the 15 Palestinians by the IDF.
Hamas, the dominant Palestinian group in Gaza, said five of the dead were members of its armed wing. Israel said eight of the 15 belonged to Hamas, designated a terrorist group by Israel and the West, and two others came from other militant factions.
A tense calm descended on Sunday on the border area, where hundreds of Palestinians, a fraction of the tens of thousands who initially turned out, remained in tent encampments along the fenced 65-km (40-mile) border.
Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defense minister, rejected criticism of Israel’s actions, saying soldiers along the Gaza frontier “deserve a medal” and did what was necessary to protect the border. “As for a commission of inquiry - there won’t be one,” he told Israeli Army Radio.
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The good news, so to speak, as the generational animosity between Turkey and Israel shows no signs of abating, is that absolutely nothing has changed in the middle east, where relationships between the various states are shown in their simplified form on the following diagram.