ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkey has accused Israel of state-sponsored terrorism while describing Monday morning’s Israeli attack on a fleet of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.
“This action, totally contrary to the principles of international law, is inhumane state terrorism. No one should think we will keep quiet in the face of this,” Erdogan said. He added that this attack openly and in a clear way displayed that Israel does not want peace in the region.
Erdogan made his remarks speaking to reporters in Chile during a visit to Latin America, which he cut short to attend to the crisis. In comments carried live on television, he said Turkey is seeking information about casualties and has demanded the release of all ships and passengers. Israel’s armed forces said its commandos killed at least 10 people after encountering resistance when boarding the ships.
“Turkey will not remain silent in response to inhuman state terror,” Erdogan said, calling on Turks to keep their emotions in check. The government has withdrawn the Turkish ambassador to Israel and will announce more details of its response when he returns to Ankara tomorrow, the premier said. The prime minister also rejected claims that Turkey’s Jewish community was under any danger, adding that Turkey’s Jewish citizens will be protected by the state.
The assault on the six ships of the flotilla, three of them Turkish-registered, has widened the rift between military allies Turkey and Israel that began with Israel’s offensive on the Gaza strip in 2008. The United Nations Security Council, of which Turkey is a temporary member, will discuss the issue today.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed regret over the deaths and blamed the organizers of the aid convoy and participants for starting the violence.
Erdogan said Israeli statements that the passengers on the vessels were armed were “lies” and that Turkey aims to make protests with international bodies including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He said it still wasn’t exactly clear what took place on the ships.
“The process from now on will be determined by the stance Israel adopts,” he said. Turkey shouldn’t respond emotionally, describing non-violent anti-Israel protests that took place in Turkey Tuesday as “exemplary.”
Erdogan said Turkey will continue to monitor and assess the situation throughout the week.