A fallout between Turkey and Israel deepened on Wednesday as the Jewish state hit back at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s criticism of its constraints on Muslims visiting a sensitive holy site in annexed east Jerusalem.
Erdogan welcomed Israel’s removal of Metal Detectors from the site but said it was “not enough”.
Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after an attack on July 14 that killed two policemen.
But after protests and intensive international diplomacy to prevent further unrest, the Israeli government removed the detectors from the site.
“Israel took the right step to remove the metal detectors to help lower tension,” Erdogan said. “But is it enough according to our wishes? No, it is not.”
Erdogan said Turkey “cannot tolerate” constraints placed by its nominal ally Israel on Muslims visiting the site during the weekly Friday prayers.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded on Wednesday with a forthright statement.
“It’s absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region,” it said in a statement.
“The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed.”
Palestinians viewed the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the site, which is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Clashes broke out during protests, leaving five Palestinians dead.
“The Israeli government want to destroy the Islamic character of Jerusalem with a new practice every day,” Erdogan said.
There were already tit-for-tat statements from both sides on Tuesday after Erdogan criticised Israel and accused it of “attempting to take the (Al-Aqsa) mosque from Muslim hands”.
The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that his comments were “mind-blowing, false and distorted”.
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu on Wednesday condemned Israel’s “arrogant” remarks.