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Israeli ambassador exits Turkey as Gaza row mounts

Erdogan slams Netanyahu for leading ‘apartheid state’ ahead of emergency IOC meeting on Friday

By AFP - May 16,2018 - Last updated at May 16,2018

Protesters wave banners and flags featuring the Shahada (the Islamic creed stating a belief in one god and the acceptance that Mohammed was God's prophet) as they take part in a protest at the Istikilal Avenue in Istanbul on Monday (AFP photo)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Israel's ambassador to Turkey on Wednesday left the country after being ordered out by Ankara in a growing crisis over the killing of dozens of Palestinians on the Gaza border by Israeli occupation forces’ fire that threatens a reconciliation deal.

Israeli Ambassador Eitan Naeh departed for Tel Aviv via Istanbul airport under the full glare of the Turkish media, who appeared to have been specially invited to film his exit.

Naeh has been told by Turkey to stay away for an unspecified period of time. Turkey had already withdrawn its ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave, also for an unspecified period of time.

The Turkish foreign ministry on Wednesday also told the Israeli consul general in Istanbul to leave Turkey "for a period of time", the foreign ministry said.

The manner of Naeh's departure angered the Israeli government, with the ambassador filmed going through an extra security check and then sitting alone at the gate.

Israel's foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned the Turkish charge d'affaires in Israel to its Jerusalem headquarters for a reprimand over what it called in a statement "inappropriate treatment" of the ambassador.

The Israeli statement invited local news teams to film Turkish charge d'affaires Umut Deniz when he arrived at the foreign ministry.


'Strong message' 


The row, which on Tuesday saw President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu exchange bitter jibes on Twitter, threatens a 2016 deal on normalising ties after the crisis sparked by the May 2010 deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos.

Turkey has expressed outrage over the killing by Israeli occupation forces on Monday of 60 Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border and also blamed tensions on the US decision to move its embassy for Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Ankara also withdrew its Ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic for consultations after the bloodshed, which came on the same day the embassy move took place. Kilic arrived back in Ankara on Wednesday afternoon, state media said.

Erdogan will on Friday host an emergency summit meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul which he has said will send a "strong message to the world" on the issue.

The Turkish leader has engaged in intense telephone diplomacy to drum up support for the summit, speaking to leaders including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Saudi King Salman, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah.

Yet, it remains to be seen which leaders will be present at the summit. It will immediately be followed by a giant rally called by Erdogan in Istanbul to support the Palestinians. 

Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag said Turkey wanted to evacuate wounded Palestinians from Gaza for treatment but had yet to receive the necessary permissions from Egypt or Israel.

Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, this week has accused Israel of "genocide" and told Netanyahu he is leading an "apartheid state" while having the "blood of Palestinians" on his hands.

Netanyahu described Erdogan as "an expert on terror and slaughter" as a leading supporter of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Erdogan then hit back, asserting Hamas is a "resistance movement".

After talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Tuesday, Erdogan warned that history "will not forgive" Israel or the United States.

The Turkish presidency said in London Erdogan met a delegation of Ultra-Orthodox Jews from anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta, a very small splinter group on the margins of Ultra-Orthodox Jewry. 

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