Erdogan slams Israel for attacking Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Erdogan slams Israel for attacking Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque
Erdogan deplored Israel's raid of Al-Aqsa Mosque and said Turkey will 'always stand with Palestine' after at least 152 Palestinians were wounded when the Mosque compound was stormed
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attacks on Al-Aqsa [Getty]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday he had told his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas that he condemned Israeli "intervention on worshippers" at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque and threats to its "status or spirit".

Erdogan's comments come amid efforts by Turkey and Israel in recent weeks to normalise their long-strained ties, as part of a regional charm offensive launched by Ankara in 2020.

On Friday, at least 152 Palestinians were wounded when Israeli riot police stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Most of the Palestinian injuries were incurred from rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings with police batons, the Palestine Red Crescent said.

"During our call, I told Mr Abbas that I strongly condemned Israel's intervention on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and that we will stand against provocations and threats to its status or spirit," Erdogan said on Twitter.

"Turkey always stands with Palestine," he added.

The Al-Aqsa compound sits atop the Old City plateau of East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, and is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount.

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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.

Earlier this month, Erdogan had told his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, whom he also met in Ankara last month, that Ankara expected Israeli authorities to be sensitive over Al-Aqsa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and stressed the importance of allowing Palestinians to enter Israel.

Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he would visit Israel and Palestine with Energy Minister Fatih Donmez in mid-May and discuss the re-appointment of ambassadors with his Israeli counterpart during the visit.

The attacks came as Palestinian Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan, where increased prayer is common. Palestinians also use the compound as a gathering spot during the month, especially after breaking their fast.  

The violence was decried by the Palestinian presidency, which slammed it as a "declaration of war".

Israel invaded the  West Bank in 1967 and has illegally occupied it since.  Israeli forces and settlers often subject Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to violence and harassment.  (Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Nick Macfie)