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18 Jul, 2014 23:41

Israel reduces diplomatic staff in Turkey following violent pro-Palestinian protests

Israel reduces diplomatic staff in Turkey following violent pro-Palestinian protests

Tel Aviv has decided to reduce its diplomatic delegation in Turkey to the “minimum required” after violent pro-Palestinian protests at the Israeli diplomatic missions in Turkey were dispersed by police using tear gas.

LIVE UPDATES: Israel launches ground incursion in Gaza Strip

The Israeli Foreign Ministry blamed the Turkish authorities for failing to provide protection for its diplomatic staff, calling it a"blatant breach of diplomatic regulations." It also said that envoys' families are being repatriated in light of the violence caused by the Israeli military operation in Gaza.

“Israel strongly protests the blatant breach of diplomatic regulations... which were grossly violated by the Turkish authorities and security services during the demonstrations,” a statement from the Israeli foreign ministry said.

Protests that drew thousand in front of the Jewish embassy in Ankara and at a consulate in Istanbul were fueled by the earlier announcements by Turkey’s top leadership.

“(Israel) has always been oppressive, and continues to oppress. Hence, for Turkey, I cannot think of positive developments with Israel as long as I hold this duty,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul. “Westerners may say I am stirring up tensions, but I have the mission of winning the consent of people and God,” he added before meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

A girl holds a poster reading "God damns Israel" during a protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, in front of the Israelian Embassy in Ankara, on July 18, 2014. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

"I'm warning Israel once again that there will be much more serious consequences if it does not stop its aggressiveness and the escalation of incidents," Turkish President Abdullah Gul said.

The protests in Istanbul erupted at 01:30 am local time in front of the Israeli consulate with pro-Palestinian activists chanting slogans such as "Hail to the resistance from Istanbul to Gaza," "Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine," and "Strike, strike Hamas; strike against Israel." Demonstrators also waved Turkish and Palestinian flags.

Demonstrators throw stones at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, as they protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, on July 18, 2014. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

Within an hour protesters were smashing the building's windows after climbing the wall that surrounds the building. Law enforcement had to intervene using water cannons and tear gas against the angry mob which tried to enter the premises and pelted the police with stones. A second attack on the consulate was prevented by police intervention.

Meanwhile in Ankara, activists threw rocks at the Israeli embassy, shattering windows and hanging the Palestinian and Turkish flags on the house's wall. The police kept the protesters from entering the garden, but did nothing to stop them from throwing stones.

Demonstrators climb a wall and pole at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara as others shout slogans, during a protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, July 18, 2014. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)