Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel on Saturday as tensions rise over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan increasingly salient criticism of Israel for its war with Hamas in Gaza.
Erdoğan has repeatedly criticized Israel for its war in Gaza and advocated for a cease-fire in the conflict. The move on Saturday comes after Israel recalled its own diplomats from Ankara last week after Erdoğan led a pro-Palestine protest.
“Israel has been openly committing war crimes for 22 days, but the Western leaders cannot even call on Israel for a cease-fire, let alone react to it,” Erdoğan said last week, according to The Associated Press.
“We will tell the whole world that Israel is a war criminal,” he added. “We are making preparations for this. We will declare Israel a war criminal.”
On Saturday, Erdoğan said the Israeli government was intentionally violating international law and killing civilians in Gaza in an attempt to “gradually erase” Palestinians from history.
Turkey is a strong advocate for the Palestinian people, a two-state solution in the region, and does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization as the U.S. and others do.
“Once all of this that is happening is finished, we want to see Gaza as a peaceful region that is a part of an independent Palestinian state, in line with 1967 borders, with territorial integrity, and with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Erdoğan said, according to Turkish media.
“We will support formulas that will bring peace and calm to the region. We will not be supportive of plans that will further darken the lives of Palestinians, that will gradually erase them from the scene of history,” he continued.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry called the Turkish decision “another step to side with terrorist organization Hamas.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel on Friday to advocate for a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict in order to help civilians in Gaza. The Biden administration has not backed a full cease-fire.
Blinken will be in Ankara on Sunday to meet with Erdoğan and discuss the conflict in Gaza.
The Israeli military stepped up its ground invasion of Gaza on Thursday, sending troops into Gaza City for the first time, as aid group leaders continue warnings over fuel shortages.
The war began early last month after Hamas militants killed over a thousand Israeli civilians in a surprise attack on Israel. Responding Israeli air campaigns and a recent ground offensive have killed over 9,200 Palestinian people, including over 3,800 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.