Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Turkey is in no position to lecture the IDF on its conduct during violent clashes in Gaza. He said Israel had “the most moral army” and dismissed Ankara’s criticism as an April Fool’s Day joke.
“The most moral army in the world will not be lectured by those who have indiscriminately bombed civilian populations for years,” Netanyahu’s office said in a tweet, ironically adding that “apparently this is how April Fool’s Day is celebrated in Ankara.”
The prime minister’s intervention on social media comes after Ankara blasted the use of lethal weapons by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in violent clashes that erupted in the Gaza Strip earlier this week.
The IDF deployed live ammunition as well as rubber bullets and tear gas against Palestinian protesters, who were taking part in a march to mark Land Day – a show of opposition against Israeli settlements in the region. A total of 17 people were killed during the unrest, and over 1,400 people were injured – roughly half of them by live fire and many others by tear gas and rubber bullets, according to initial figures provided by the Gaza Health Ministry.
The suppression of the largely unarmed protests attracted the ire of Turkey. On Friday, Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, condemned the IDF’s use of force against protesters in the strongest terms.
In a statement, Kalin blasted “Israel’s attack on defenseless Palestinian civilians who attended the peaceful demonstrations in Gaza.” He added that “systematic violence against the Palestinian people has to end immediately.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also criticized the IDF’s conduct, saying it was deeply worried about the Israelis’ “disproportionate use of force” and “casualties and injuries resulting from the interventions of the Israeli security force.” It also demanded that Tel Aviv “immediately stop resorting to force, which further exacerbates the tension in the region.”
The protests, which quickly turned violent, spread across five locations along the border fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israeli territory. Palestinian rioters were “rolling burning tires and hurling firebombs and rocks” at the security forces, which responded with “riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators,” according to Israeli military.
Aside from Turkey, Egypt and Jordan also denounced what they considered to be the “disproportionate force” used by Israel against the largely unarmed protesters. Russia has also joined the criticism, describing the coercive suppression of protests as an “indiscriminate use of force against civilians.”