Turkey recalls ambassador to Israel over ‘humanitarian tragedy in Gaza’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a rally in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 28, 2023 [Dilara Senkaya/Reuters]

President Erdogan says he is breaking contact with PM Netanyahu but is not cutting relations with Israel over Gaza.

Turkey says it has recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations over Israel’s sustained bombing of civilians in the Gaza Strip and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday that Sakir Ozkan Torunlar was being recalled “in view of the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Gaza caused by the continuing attacks by Israel against civilians and Israel’s refusal of calls for a ceasefire and the continuous and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid.”

The move comes as Ankara’s rhetoric is becoming increasingly critical of Israel, which has killed about 9,500 Palestinians, including 3,900 children, in the Gaza Strip since the October 7 attacks by Hamas, which killed about 1,400 people.

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was breaking off contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying. But he added that this does not mean Turkey is cutting its relations with Israel and his intelligence chief is in contact with Israeli and Palestinian authorities as well as Hamas.

Turkey hosts members of Hamas, which it does not consider a “terrorist” organisation like the United States and the European Union. It has called for an immediate ceasefire, unlike Western governments.

Erdogan also said that when the war is over, Turkey wants “to see Gaza as a peaceful region that is a part of an independent Palestinian state, in line with 1967 borders, with territorial integrity, and with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

Last month, Israeli diplomats had left Turkey for security reasons after many pro-Palestinian demonstrations erupted across the country. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs later said it had recalled the diplomats to assess the state of bilateral relations.

According to Erdogan, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Turkey at the end of November. Erdogan also plans this month to attend a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Riyadh to discuss a ceasefire in Gaza with regional actors.

Even as international calls for a ceasefire in Gaza grow, Netanyahu has refused any such prospects as the Israeli military pushes into Gaza on the ground and continues to bomb it.

Humanitarian aid started trickling into Gaza late last month from the Rafah crossing, the only passage into the enclave not controlled by Israel, but rights organisations continue to warn that the humanitarian situation is dire.



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