Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he told his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog that he was “very upset” by Palestinians injured or killed in the West Bank and Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Since Friday, Al Aqsa – also revered by Jews as a vestige of two ancient temples – has seen confrontations between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli riot police, recalling violence that helped fan a Gaza war one year ago.
On Friday, at least 152 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli riot police inside the mosque’s compound, the latest outbreak in an upsurge of violence that has raised fears of a slide back to wider conflict.
In a tweet, Erdogan said the two leaders had discussed the recent events caused by “some radical Israeli groups and security forces” in a phone call that comes amid efforts to normalise ties between the two countries.
The “raids by fanatic groups” at Al-Aqsa in recent days and the violence spreading to Gaza were also upsetting, Erdogan told Herzog.
Erdogan said he also “emphasized the necessity of not allowing provocations and threats against the status and spirituality of the Al-Aqsa Mosque during this sensitive time.”
Regional rivals Turkey and Israel expelled ambassadors in 2018 and have often traded barbs over the Palestinian conflict, Turkish support of the Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza, and other issues.
Turkey, which supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has said it believes a rapprochement with Israel will also help find a solution to the issue, but that it would not abandon commitments to Palestinians for better ties with Israel.
Palestinians accuse Israel of encroaching at Al Aqsa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israel says Palestinian protesters seek to disrupt Muslim prayer for political ends and to prevent visits by Jews, who are now celebrating Passover.
While it has criticized the clashes in Jerusalem, Turkey’s reaction to the violence has been much calmer than in the past, when it had launched various initiatives at the United Nations and other platforms to condemn Israel and support Palestinians.
Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he would visit Israel and Palestine with Energy Minister Fatih Donmez in May and discuss the re-appointment of ambassadors with his Israeli counterpart during the visit. [Reuters]