Turkey Suspend Israeli Envoy Over Gaza

Turkey announced on Tuesday that it was temporarily expelling Israel’s ambassador to the country, prompting a similar move by Israel, which also temporarily dismissed Ankara’s envoy.

Ambassador Eitan Naeh was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry and told to “return to his country for a period of time”, said a foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named.

In a growing crisis over Monday’s killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces on the Gaza border, Israel responded by ordering the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave for an unspecified period of time, its foreign ministry said.

Turkey had already called back its ambassador to Tel Aviv — as well as the envoy to Washington — for consultations over the bloodshed.

Ankara has reacted with fury to the killings, which came on the same day as the US formally moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel was an “apartheid state” as the killing of dozens of Palestinians threatened a 2016 reconciliation deal.

Naeh had been in his post only since December 2016 after a reconciliation earlier that year ended a dispute over the May 2010 deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos that saw ties downgraded for over half a decade.

Erdogan, currently on a visit to Britain, had on Monday stepped up his rhetoric, accusing Israel of “state terror” and “genocide” over the killings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at Erdogan, saying that as a leading supporter of Palestinian group Hamas “there’s no doubt he’s an expert on terror and slaughter.”

Responding to the Israel premier on Twitter, Erdogan further sharpened his language, saying “Netanyahu is the PM of an apartheid state that has occupied a defenseless people’s lands for 60+ yrs in violation of UN resolutions.”

“He has the blood of Palestinians on his hands and can’t cover up crimes by attacking Turkey,” Erdogan added.

At talks with British Premier Theresa May, Erdogan said the United States had “paved the way… and laid the foundations” for the killings with its embassy move.

Turkey on Tuesday began observing three days national mourning declared by Erdogan for the Palestinian dead, with flags flying at half-mast and cultural events cancelled.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had earlier urged Islamic countries to review their ties with Israel and said Ankara was calling an extraordinary summit of the world’s main pan-Islamic body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), on Friday.

“The Islamic world should move as one, with one voice, against this massacre,” he added.

In a possible bid to rally support for the summit, Erdogan spoke by telephone to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Malaysia’s 92-year-old new leader Mahathir Mohamad.

Erdogan vowed Tuesday that the OIC summit would send a “strong message” over the Israeli killings of Palestinians in Gaza.

“The extraordinary meeting on Friday will give a very strong message to the world from Istanbul,” Erdogan said at a press conference in London, adding that all members of the Organization were invited.

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