Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel was "a terror state" and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "a terrorist" on Sunday, after Netanyahu hit back at Turkish criticism of Israel's response to protests on the Gaza border over the weekend. Fifteen Palestinian protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli forces.
"I do not need to tell the world how cruel the Israeli army is. We can see what this terror state is doing by looking at the situation in Gaza and Jerusalem," Erdogan said, according to the Daily Sabah newspaper. "Israel has carried out a massacre in Gaza and Netanyahu is a terrorist."
Netanyahu responded that "Erdogan is not used to someone answering him back - he should get used to it. Anyone who occupies Northern Cyprus, invades the Kurds and massacres civilians in Afrin shouldn't lecture us on morality and values."
Netanyahu blasted Erdogan earlier on Sunday, saying that the Israeli military "will not be lectured by someone who for years is bombing civilian populations indiscriminately." Morality lessons from Ankara, he said, were apparently an "April Fools' joke."
Erdogan on Saturday condemned the Israeli government for its "inhumane attack," referring to 15 Palestinian protesters killed on Friday. “Israel will imprison Palestine under its oppression. We will continue to support our brothers and sisters in Palestine,” he said.
Erdogan attacked his critics as well. “I have not heard worthy opposition to the Israeli massacre in Gaza from those who criticized the operation in Afrin,” he said, referring to Turkish actions in the Kurdish enclave in Syria.
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The European Union criticized the Turkish offensive on Afrin two weeks ago, while the Kurdish militia called the assault an “occupation.” A top member of the Kurdish civil authority told Reuters that civilians still in Afrin town were facing threats from the Turkey-backed groups.
“This is the clearest proof of the lack of sincerity by those who focus on us but say nothing about the fact that Israel attacks protesters on their own land,” he said. Erdogan added that he spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday and asked him: “Aren’t you going to intervene there?”
On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent and transparent investigation into the deaths and injuries along Gaza's border with Israel, his spokesman said in a statement.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Saturday for a probe into the Israeli military's use of live fire during the mass rallies at the Gaza-Israel border.