Turkey’s Erdoğan calls Abbas, condemns Israeli aggression at Al-Aqsa

Turkey’s Erdoğan calls Abbas, condemns Israeli aggression at Al-Aqsa

Turkey’s Erdoğan calls Abbas, condemns Israeli aggression at Al-Aqsa

Palestinian women run away as Israeli police throw a stun grenade in Jerusalem's Old City September 13, 2015. REUTERS photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has condemned Israeli forces’ targeting of Muslim groups inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, pledging to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Ankara will continue to strive to boost international awareness of the plight of the Palestinians, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Erdoğan called Abbas on Sept. 14, according to sources from the Turkish president’s office. In the talk, Erdoğan “condemned” Israeli forces’ clashes with Muslims upon entering the al-Haram al-Sharif on the morning of Sept. 13 and their forcible denial of access to Muslims for a certain period of time. 

The Turkish president reportedly described the incidents as “worrying,” while pledging that Turkey would do its best to make the international community “more sensitive” on the matter.

Earlier on Sept. 14, police and Palestinian stone throwers clashed for a second day in a row at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site. The compound is holy to Jews as the Temple Mount, site of the two biblical Jewish temples. Muslims revere it as the Noble Sanctuary where they believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The fate of the site is a core issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The holy site is a frequent flashpoint of violence. On Sept. 13, police clashed with Palestinians who barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque and threw rocks and firecrackers. A Jewish man wearing a traditional prayer shawl was attacked as he passed through a nearby alleyway in the old city.

Since Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, Jewish worshippers have been allowed to visit - but not pray - at the site. The area is administered by Muslim authorities and is under Jordanian custody. Muslim authorities view the presence of Jewish worshippers and Israeli police as a provocation and accuse Jewish extremists of plotting to take over the site.

Israel has promised to ensure the status quo at the site.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has also condemned Israel, calling for “an immediate end to illegal practices.”

“Israel needs to fulfill its responsibility to provide freedom of worship in East Jerusalem, which it is keeping under occupation, and immediately end these illegal practices which target the status and holiness of the al-Haram al-Sharif and are in open violation of freedom of worship,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

Turkey’s top cleric also condemned Israel for what he described as the “occupation” of Al-Aqsa.

“The Israeli intervention at the Masjid Al-Aqsa, which is among the three most sacred temples of Muslims, at the time of morning prayer cannot be accepted. I strongly condemn the occupation of the Masjid Al-Aqsa as a violation of the [sanctity of places of worship] which is accepted by all religions and civilizations,” Mehmet Görmez, the head of the Directorate General of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), said in a written statement released on Sept. 13.

“Before the incidents reach dimensions that cannot be prevented, occupiers should immediately back down from this dire attempt. The Masjid Al-Aqsa should be opened without reservations, and all desires for division and occupation should be abandoned forever,” he added.

Erdoğan meets Hamas leader for second time in a month

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held an unannounced meeting with a senior Hamas leader on Sept. 14, after condemning an Israeli forces’ targeting of Muslim groups inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound during a telephone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier that day.

Erdoğan’s meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal at the presidential palace took almost one hour, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported without providing further details. His meeting with Mashaal was not announced in a daily schedule of Erdoğan released in the morning.

Mashaal came to Turkey to attend a congress of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sept. 12, where Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was reelected as leader of the party.

Most recently, Mashaal met Erdoğan on Aug. 12, amid a flurry of regional meetings held by Hamas that particularly intensified after the recent nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers.