Ankara (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza, which he said amounted to genocide, and urged governments worldwide to work for a humanitarian ceasefire in the region.
Turkey supports Palestinians, backs a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and hosts members of militant group Hamas. It has offered to mediate and has sent humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip that is stuck in Egypt because borders are closed.
While initially condemning civilian deaths and calling for restraint as it sought to repair ties with Israel after years of animosity, Ankara has toughened its stance against Israel as the fighting and humanitarian crisis in Gaza has intensified.
“I repeat my call for the Israeli leadership to never expand the scope of its attacks on civilians and to immediately end its operations amounting to genocide,” Erdogan said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
He added Israel was provoking non-regional actors instead of turning back from its mistakes in Gaza, and said that the region needed saving from the “frenzy of madness” supported by Western powers and media. Erdogan also said Ankara was working to end the fighting before it reached “a point of no return”.
“It is clear that security cannot be achieved by massacring children, women, civilians; by bombing hospitals, schools, mosques, and churches,” Erdogan said. “Cruelty does not bring prosperity.”
Later on Friday, Erdogan spoke to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi by phone to discuss the conflict and “the human rights violations committed by Israel against civilians”, the Turkish presidency said.
Erdogan’s office said he told Sisi that “the savagery toward Palestinian lands was deepening, and that the silence of Western countries over the bombing of hospitals, schools, and places of worship was worsening the fire in Gaza.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Friday criticized Wednesday’s visit by U.S. President Joe Biden to Israel.
“Of course, Biden coming there under these circumstances and being in a position, in a way, of approving the destruction in Gaza, is being noted by history,” Fidan said. “For many, this is not a surprise, but it creates a perception that may cause many different outcomes for America.”
Turkish protesters staged anti-Israel demonstrations across the country this week after a blast that killed large numbers of Palestinians at a Gaza hospital. Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed each other for the explosion.
Israeli diplomats, including its ambassador, have left Turkey after Israel issued a security warning.
Ankara has also been in talks with Hamas to secure the release of civilians the group has taken prisoner, but Fidan was cited as saying on Wednesday that there “is nothing concrete” for now.