Turkey expressed displeasure on Sunday at Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip over the weekend, calling the strikes "excessive and disproportionate", Agence France-Presse reported.
“We strongly condemn the excessive and disproportionate reprisals of Israel that have injured and killed civilians in Gaza,” read a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement. “The region cannot be allowed to enter into a new spiral of violence,” it added.
Nineteen Palestinian militants and civilians in Hamas Islamist ruled Gaza have been killed since Israel launched a series of air raids on Thursday after the critical wounding of a teenager by an anti-tank rocket that was fired at a school bus.
Palestinian militants responded by firing more than 120 rockets and mortars at Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip over the course of the weekend, with tens of thousands of people spending the past few nights in reinforced rooms.
Relations between Israel and Turkey, once close allies, have sharply deteriorated in recent years amid Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s frequent outbursts against Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and Israel's raid on the Gaza flotilla in May, in which IDF commandos killed 9 Turkish citizens aboard.
Another five mortar rounds hit the Negev on Sunday, and two rockets exploded near Ashkelon. Another rocket targeting Ashkelon was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. No casualties were reported in any of those incidents, but electricity was temporarily cut in parts of the region.
A senior Hamas official on Sunday made a rare direct appeal to the Israeli public to halt the current round of cross-border fighting, after a weekend of deadly violence left 19 Palestinians dead.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would be willing to accept a mutual cease-fire with Hamas if the movement stopped firing from Gaza. "If they stop firing on our communities, we will stop firing. If they stop firing in general, it will be quiet, it will be good," Barak told Israel Radio.
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