President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has fiercely condemned what he called “Israeli terrorism” after the Gaza office for the Turkish news agency was destroyed during the latest round of hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.
“We strongly condemn Israel’s attack against Anadolu Agency’s office in Gaza,” Erdoğan said on twitter and added: “Turkey and Anadolu Agency will continue to tell the world about Israeli terrorism and atrocities in Gaza and other parts of Palestine despite such attacks.”
Vice President Fuat Oktay also condemned the attack. “Israel’s reckless attacks against civilians are unacceptable,” Oktay said in a Twitter post. “I wish quick recovery for Anadolu Agency family which broadcasts the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people to the world,” Oktay added.
“Targeting of Anadolu Agency Gaza office is new example of Israel’s unrestrained aggression,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter and added: “Israeli violence against innocent people w/out distinction is a crime against humanity. Those who encourage Israel are also guilty.” “Will keep defending Palestinian cause, even if alone.”
Saturday’s attack targeting a news organization should anger more than just Turkey, said Fahrettin Altun, Erdogan’s communications director. “We urge all governments that claim to defend press freedom, including the U.S., to join us in condemning the Israeli government,” he said on Twitter.
The Israel Forces statement said it had bombed a building in Gaza City on Saturday containing Hamas military intelligence and general security offices.
“Israel’s hitting Anadolu Agency’s office [in Gaza] is an attempt to get rid of the witnesses, a preparation of massacres in Gaza,” Palestinian government said in a statement.
“The targeting of the Anadolu Agency office is the attempt to remove witnesses and prepare for the massacres of Israel against Gaza,” Ibrahim Melhem, spokesman for the Palestinian government told Anadolu Agency.
During the weekend, more than 430 rockets and mortars had been fired out of Gaza, which Israel said it responded to with 200 air and tank strikes. One Israeli civilian and six Palestinians, including two militants, had been killed, The Guardian quoted officials on both sides as saying.
“The latest round began on Friday after a Palestinian Islamic Jihad sniper fired at Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers, according to the Israeli army. Israel responded with an airstrike that killed two members of Hamas, another faction that controls the strip. Israel says it holds Hamas accountable for all activity in Gaza,” The Guardian said adding:
“On the same day, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians demonstrating near the frontier, and on Saturday morning militants began rocket barrages that stretched into Sunday. The launches have often followed killings at rallies on the border, where Palestinians have been calling for an end to a debilitating Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has led to a dire humanitarian crisis.”
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from the Israeli side of the border with Gaza, said the escalation was “far from over”.”This is potentially a dangerous and long, major military escalation,” he said.”Israeli media is quoting senior defence sources as saying they expect this fighting to last some days.
Israeli warplanes and gunboats continued to target the Gaza Strip on Sunday, as rockets were also fired from Gaza into southern Israel, Al Jazeera reported. About two million Palestinians live in Gaza, whose economy has suffered from years of a blockade as well as recent foreign aid cuts. Unemployment stands at 52 percent, according to the World Bank, and poverty is rampant.
The attack on Anadolu marked another low point in persistently poor relations between Turkey and Israel, Bloomberg said adding: “The relationship has been on a decline at least since a 2009 public clash between Erdogan and President Shimon Peres of Israel during a panel on Gaza at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Ties came under further strain a year later when a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza was raided by Israeli commandos, resulting in the deaths of 10 civilians. Tensions rose again last year after Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in Ankara, citing disproportionate force used by the IDF against Palestinians.”