Erdoğan, Herzog to speak amid Israeli intervention against Palestinians

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold a phone call with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, after Israeli interventions on Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque last week, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

On Friday, at least 152 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli riot police inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the latest outbreak in an upsurge of violence that has raised fears of a slide back to wider conflict.

“We have already made our statements and we are continuing our contacts in response to the unacceptable attacks by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Al-Aqsa,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a news conference in Ankara.

“Our president will have a phone call with Israeli President Isaac Herzog as well,” he added.

On Israel’s intervention against Muslim worshipers at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque, which he condemned on Sunday, Erdoğan late Monday called it “really a source of sadness” for Turkey.

“We never want to go through this,” he stressed. “I hope that we will not go through this again in the process that follows.”

“We support all kinds of normalization steps that will contribute to the formation of a belt of peace and stability in our immediate environment,” Erdoğan said.

Also in a phone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, Erdoğan said he strongly condemned the Israeli intervention on Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque as he reiterated Turkey’s determination to stand in solidarity with Palestine amid the violence.

Turkey has in the past launched various initiatives within the United Nations and Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) against Israeli actions towards Palestinian and its policies regarding East Jerusalem or its status.

Tension has mounted across the Palestinian territories since Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard on Friday amid clashes with worshippers, injuring hundreds.

On Sunday, more than 700 Israeli settlers forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex under heavy police protection to celebrate the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday, which started on Friday.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the world’s third-holiest site for Muslims. Jews call the area the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

The holy site, which is sacred to Jews and Muslims, has often been the epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian unrest, and tensions were already heightened amid a recent wave of violence. Clashes at the site last year helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It annexed the entire city in 1980, in a move never recognized by the international community.

Most of the Palestinian injuries were incurred from rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings with police batons, the Palestine Red Crescent said.

Tensions this year have been heightened in part by the Islamic holy month of Ramadan coinciding with the Jewish celebration of Passover.

Erdoğan’s comments come amid efforts by Turkey and Israel in recent months to normalize their long-strained ties.

Regional rivals Turkey and Israel expelled ambassadors in 2018 and have often traded barbs over the Palestinian conflict and other issues.

Turkey, which supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has said it believes a rapprochement with Israel will also help find a solution to the issue, but that it would not abandon commitments to Palestinians for better ties with Israel.

Earlier this month, Erdoğan had told his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, whom he also met in Ankara last month, that Ankara expected Israeli authorities to be sensitive over Al-Aqsa during Ramadan and stressed the importance of allowing Palestinians to enter Israel.

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