Israeli-Turkish Relations Tense as Erdogan Says Qassams Don't Kill

Turkish PM: Palestinian territories are like an open-air prison; senior Foreign Min. officials issue protest.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have become very tense in the last two days, after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that no Israelis have been killed by Qassam missiles, while every Israel Defense Forces attack in the Gaza Strip kills dozens of Palestinians.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials Wednesday issued a protest to Turkey's ambassador to Israel, Namik Tan, and requested clarifications of Erdogan's remarks.

"Israel is very disappointed by Erdagan's statements in light of the friendly relations between the two countries. ... Israel expects a different response from a state that itself is fighting terror," a senior Foreign Ministry official told Tam, in conveying the official protest.

In addition, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to speak to her Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, and a phone conversation between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Erdogan is being contemplated.

Senior sources in Jerusalem expressed anger about Erdogan's comments.

Erdogan was critical of Israel's closing the Gaza Strip border as well as IDF operations in the area.

"The Palestinian territories are like an open-air prison, they are under siege from Israel," he said in a televised speech to lawmakers Wednesday.

He blamed Israel for the situation in Gaza: "The people of Gaza are facing a humanitarian tragedy," he said. "We cannot accept a practice that amounts to punishing nearly 2 million innocent people due to some rocket attacks. ... When we ask [our Israeli colleagues] how many Israeli citizens died as a result of these rocket attacks, we do not get an answer."