Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stepped up condemnation of Israel on Friday, calling its ongoing strikes on Gaza “atrocious” and accusing Israel of pounding the Palestinian territory for “fabricated reasons.”
“As you know there will be an election in Israel. And you see Israel has started attacking innocent Gazans for fabricated reasons,” Erdoğan told reporters on Friday, adding that he plans to discuss the issue with US President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The prime minister said that Operation Cast Lead also came ahead of the Israeli elections. Israel's Operation Cast Lead from 2008-2009 began with a week of air attacks and shelling, followed by a land invasion of the blockaded coastal strip, sealed off at sea by the Israeli navy. Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis died.
President Abdullah Gül has also decried Israel's assault on Gaza, which has left more than 20 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians. Echoing Erdoğan, described the offensive as a “bloody investment in the election.”
“There will be an election in Israel in January. There must not be such a bloody investment in the election,” said Gül. He described the Gaza violence as a “dangerous escalation,” saying it is impossible for the world to ignore this crisis.
This latest surge in the long-running conflict between Israel and Gaza began when the former killed Hamas military mastermind Ahmed Al-Jaabari in a precision airstrike on his car on Wednesday. Israel then began shelling the coastal enclave from land, air and sea. Three days of Israeli airstrikes have left 21 Palestinians dead: eight militants and 13 civilians, among them six children and a pregnant woman carrying twins.
A Hamas rocket killed three Israelis in the town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday morning.
Turkish leaders have strongly condemned Israel for the series of strikes on the Gaza Strip and, having already effectively cut bilateral ties with Israel, turned to the UN and US, urging them to pressure Israel to immediately stop its attacks on Gaza.
Erdoğan said on Friday that he hopes Israel will drop its hostile stance when a resolution is passed by the UN Security Council and world powers assume a different stance.
Erdoğan blamed the “dominant powers” of the world, apparently referring to the US, for the suffering of the people in Gaza and added that he planned to have a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama on Friday evening. “The dominant world powers are now making the Gazan people and fighters pay and, as the Republic of Turkey, we are with our brothers in Gaza and their just cause,” he said.
Turkish leaders earlier called on the US to pressure Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza, but the US, which is backing Israel in this conflict, has asked Turkey and Egypt to use their ties with Hamas to encourage the Palestinian group to stop attacking Israel. “We've ... urged those who have a degree of influence with Hamas, such as Turkey and Egypt and some of our European partners, to use that influence to urge Hamas to de-escalate,” said Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security advisor, during a conference call with reporters on Thursday.
Asked by Reuters whether the United States is concerned that Israeli ground forces will enter Gaza, Rhodes said, “Ultimately, it's up to the Israeli government to make determinations about how they're going to carry out their military objectives.”
The US placed the onus for the Gaza escalation on Hamas, saying it backs Israel's right to “self-defense.”
“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel,” said Mark Toner, deputy US State Department spokesman.
No ties left to be affected
When asked how the incident would affect Turkish-Israeli relations, Erdoğan replied on Friday: “Which relations are you talking about? We don't have any relations.”
Erdoğan also dismissed possible talks between Turkey and Israel and said that only the UN Security Council and countries friendly with Israel are able to talk with Israel.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç made a surprise offer on Thursday and suggested that Turkey and Israel hold bilateral talks to end the escalating crisis in Gaza despite the rift between the two nations.
Arınç acknowledged that relations between Turkey and Israel are now frozen but said that Turkey will make every effort in this regard. “But these two states should have talks at least on this issue to end this tragedy and the attacks,” Arınç said.
Turkish-Israeli relations collapsed after eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American were killed when the Israeli navy attacked an international aid flotilla trying to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza in May of 2010.
Ankara wants an official apology from Israel for the raid and calls for the lifting of the Gaza blockade, but both demands have so far been rejected by the Israeli government. With tensions increased, Turkey has expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended military agreements it had with the country.
Erdoğan said he was also planning to have a phone conversation with Russian President Putin and UN chief Ban Ki-moon on the Gaza crisis.
Erdoğan added that he will visit Egypt on Saturday and have comprehensive talks with Morsi, after which they will issue a joint statement on the Gaza crisis. Erdoğan underlined that he does not have plans to visit Gaza.
Turkish-Egyptian dialogue intensifies amid Gaza crisis
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is scheduled to visit Egypt from Nov.17-18, is expected to discuss the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip with Egyptian officials -- a topic that would further foster relations between Turkey and Egypt due to the similar stance taken by the two countries on the Palestinian issue.
The Turkish prime minister had a phone conversation with Morsi late on Thursday to discuss the escalating exchange of fire between Israel and the Palestinians.
According to sources, Erdoğan and Morsi exchanged views on tensions in the region, particularly Israel's assault on Gaza. In their conversation, Morsi also stressed that Cairo is “impatiently” awaiting Erdoğan's visit on Saturday.
Erdoğan is to be accompanied by a delegation of 12 ministers on the visit, considered the largest in the history of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Although Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip are expected to overshadow the topics likely to be discussed between Turkish and Egyptian officials during Erdoğan's visit, including bilateral relations, Egypt's economic, political and social problems and the Syrian crisis, it is also an issue that is expected to consolidate Turkish-Egyptian dialogue on the regional issues.
As a sign of its strong stance on Israel, Egypt officially requested a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday to discuss what it described as Israeli aggression on Gaza.
On Wednesday, Egypt condemned the Israeli strikes that killed many civilians in the Gaza Strip, describing the attack as a violation of international law. On the same day, Egypt, which is seriously alarmed at Israeli aggression on Gaza, recalled its ambassador from Israel as a sign of protest.
Turkish leaders have also strongly condemned Israel for a series of strikes on the Gaza Strip, calling on the United Nations to take "principled action" against the aggression and stop Israel's continued attacks immediately.
The attacks came despite signs that Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, had managed to broker a truce between Israeli and Palestinian forces after a five-day surge in violence which saw more than 100 missiles fired out of Gaza and repeated Israeli strikes on the enclave.