In a significant diplomatic move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for international legal action against Israel, alleging war crimes committed in Gaza. Erdogan communicated his stance to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday, according to an official statement released by the Turkish presidency.
Israel's Offensive in Gaza
The Turkish president's call for accountability comes in the wake of a major Israeli offensive against Hamas fighters in Gaza. The air and ground attack, launched in response to an incursion by Hamas in southern Israel, has reportedly resulted in the death of more than 15,000 people, as per health authorities in Gaza. The initial attack by Hamas on October 7 led to around 1,200 casualties and the taking of 240 hostages.
Erdogan's statement marks another low in the strained relations between Turkey and Israel. The two nations had reestablished diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level in September 2022, but the recent Gaza conflict has once again soured relations. In a strong response to Erdogan's vitriolic speech about the Gaza war delivered on October 28, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen ordered the return of diplomatic representatives from Ankara for a review of Israel-Turkey relations.
During his conversation with Guterres, Erdogan also discussed the expectations of the international community regarding Israel's 'unlawful attacks,' the need for humanitarian aid access into Gaza, and efforts to achieve lasting peace. Turkey, which maintains ties with Hamas, has been a vocal critic of Israel's actions in Gaza, calling for an immediate ceasefire to pave the way for discussions on a two-state solution to the wider Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Erdogan's criticism of Israel extends to its leadership, with him accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being 'the butcher of Gaza' and holding him personally responsible for the loss of lives. The Turkish president has also refused to condemn Hamas, further complicating Turkey-Israel relations.
The ongoing conflict in Gaza, marked by a cross-border attack by Hamas and Israel's subsequent military response, has led to a temporary truce, allowing for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. However, the situation remains volatile, with Erdogan's call for Israel to face international legal consequences adding a new dimension to the crisis.