Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan said in an Ankara speech at an AKP party meeting in parliament that Israel is trying to take the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Muslims under the guise of efforts to fight terrorism.
"Everyone who knows Israel is aware that restrictions on Al-Aqsa mosque are not due to safety concerns," Erdogan said in his strongest statement since the crisis began on the Temple Mount.
The Turkish president was one of the prominent leaders of the Muslim world that attacked Israel in recent days following the placement of metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount. Erdogan, who serves as the rotating president of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, held a series of phone calls with Arab and Muslim leaders and even raised the issue in a meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abd al-Aziz earlier this week.
Erdogan called on the world's Muslims to take an active part of the defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. "When Israeli soldiers carelessly pollute the grounds of Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple issues as a pretext and then easily spill blood there, the reason [they are able to do that] is we [Muslims] have not done enough to stake our claim over Jerusalem."
The Turkish president also came out against the recent attacks against synagogues in Turkey by Muslim extremists, saying that it is a mistake to respond to one injustice by causing another.
On Saturday, Erdogan condemned Israel over the crisis and what he described as excessive use of force against Muslim worshippers. "Closing Temple Mount for days and imposing restrictions on Muslims is unacceptable," Erdogan said. "I call on the international community to intervene."
President Reuven Rivlin and Erdogan discussed the Temple Mount crisis in a phone call on Thursday. The Israeli President's Residence said that the call took place at Erdogan's request. A senior Israeli official said that the Foreign Ministry opposed to the call taking place, and even passed on a negative assessment of it earlier in the day.
The President's Residence said that during their conversation, Rivlin clarified to his Turkish counterpart that "the terror attack that occurred last Friday at the Temple Mount, a sacred site for all of us, is an unacceptable crossing of a red line that jeopardizes our ability to live together."
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