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ISTANBUL: Israel said on Saturday (Oct 28) it was recalling its diplomatic staff from Türkiye after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a fierce attack on its military operation against Hamas militants in Gaza.
The decision delivered a body blow to the sides’ nascent efforts to restore political and economic relations after a decade of all but frozen ties.
Israel and Türkiye – an overwhelmingly Muslim nation that forms the bulwark of NATO defences on the edge of the Middle East – had only just agreed to reappoint ambassadors last year.
They were also restarting discussions on a US-backed natural gas pipeline project that could have formed the basis for much closer and more lasting cooperation in the coming years.
But their relations have unravelled as Erdogan picks up the pace and venom of his attacks on Israel’s retaliatory military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas militants staged a surprise attack on Oct 7 during which they killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seized more than 220 hostages.
The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza has said Israeli strikes have killed 7,703 people – mainly civilians – with more than 3,500 of them children.
Erodgan’s Islamic-rooted party staged a massive rally in Istanbul on Saturday that the president said drew an estimated a crowd of 1.5 million people.
“Israel, you are an occupier,” he told the Turkish and Palestinian-flag waving sea of supporters.
He accused the Israel government of behaving like a “war criminal” and trying to “eradicate” Palestinians.
“Of course, every country has the right to defend itself. But where is the justice in this case? There is no justice – just a vicious massacre happening in Gaza.”
Israeli ordered the return of all diplomatic staff from Türkiye moments after Erdogan finished his remarks.
“Given the grave statements coming from Türkiye, I have ordered the return of diplomatic representatives there in order to conduct a reevaluation of the relations between Israel and Türkiye,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a statement.
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