Turkey’s government on Tuesday expelled the Israeli ambassador in protest over Israel’s killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters in Gaza, a Turkish foreign ministry official said.
The Turkish decision marked one of the strongest international responses after Monday’s deadly confrontations along the border fence separating Israel and Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade for more than a decade. At least 60 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured, Gaza officials said.
Turkey maintains diplomatic ties with Israel, but relations have been severely strained in recent years over issues including the treatment of Palestinians.
In 2010, Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish-operated passenger vessel, the Mavi Marmara, that was on a course to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The raid killed nine activists.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking during a trip to Britain, called the Gaza killings “a genocide.”
“They are not committing this genocide for the first time,” he said, adding that the killings “have shown the ugly face of Israel.”
Reacting on Twitter, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “Erdogan is among Hamas’s biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest he not preach morality to us.”
Even as Turkey’s tensions with Israel deepen, the response from some Arab governments toward Israel — including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — has become more muted in recent years. Gulf states have seen their interests converge more closely with Israel over their shared worries over Iran’s reach in the region.