Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the international community should “give Israel a strong and deterrent lesson” over its conduct towards the Palestinians.
Erdogan made the comment during a phone call with Putin on Wednesday, Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate said, amid escalating violence in occupied East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
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Hostilities flared after Hamas, which rules the besieged Gaza Strip, issued an ultimatum on Monday demanding that Israel stand down its security forces from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City after a violent crackdown against Palestinians.
Monday marked the third consecutive day that Israeli police had raided Islam’s third holiest site, firing rubber-coated steel rounds, stun grenades and tear gas at Palestinian worshippers in the final days of the holy month of Ramadan
The escalation was sparked by Israel’s plans to forcefully expel residents from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlers.
Gaza’s ministry of health said the overall death toll since the latest offensive began stood at 56, including 14 children. More than 300 others have been wounded. Six Israelis have also been killed.
The Turkish statement on Wednesday said Erdogan stressed the need for “the international community to give Israel a strong and deterrent lesson” and pressed for the UN Security Council to rapidly intervene with “determined and clear messages” to Israel.
The statement said Erdogan suggested to Putin that an international protection force to shield the Palestinians should be considered.
Erdogan had late last year expressed a desire to see relations between Turkey and Israel improve, after years of disagreement over Tel Aviv’s occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians.
Turkey, which in 1949 became the first Muslim-majority country to recognise Israel, first broke off ties with Israel in 2010.
That was after 10 pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos who boarded a Turkish-owned ship, the Mavi Marmara, which was part of a flotilla trying to deliver aid and break Israel’s year-long maritime blockade on Gaza.
The Israeli blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip has been in place since June 2007, when Israel imposed an airtight land, sea and air blockade on the area.
They restored ties in 2016, but relations soured again in 2018.
In May that year, Ankara withdrew its envoy over deadly attacks against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip who were protesting against US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have often exchanged angry remarks, but both countries continue to trade with one another.
In August this year, Israel accused Turkey of giving passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, describing the move as “a very unfriendly step” which his government would raise with Turkish officials.
Hamas seized the besieged Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 after winning legislative elections in 2006. Since then, Israel has severely intensified its siege and launched three protracted military assaults on Gaza.