Israel continues to shell Gaza
Israel has intensified its assault on Gaza, as Palestinian militants continue to fire rockets into Israel on the fifth day of hostilities.
Israel’s military said air and ground forces were involved in attacks on Friday but had not entered Gaza.
Meanwhile, clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli security forces spread across much of the occupied West Bank.
At least 122 people have been killed in Gaza and eight have died in Israel since the fighting began on Monday.
Jewish and Israeli-Arab mobs have also been fighting within Israel, prompting its president to warn of civil war.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered a “massive reinforcement” of security forces to suppress the internal unrest that has seen more than 400 people arrested.
Police say Israeli Arabs have been responsible for most of the trouble and reject the accusation that they are standing by while gangs of Jewish youths target Arab homes.
This week’s violence in Gaza and Israel is the worst since 2014. It came after weeks of rising Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.
In Gaza, Palestinians fearing an incursion by Israeli troops have been fleeing areas close to the border with Israel. Residents who had left Shejaiya in Gaza City said shells had been falling on homes.
“We felt like we were in a horror movie,” said local resident Salwa Al-Attar, who escaped the bombardment with her family. “The planes were above us, and the tanks and navy were bombing – and we could not move. The children, women and men were screaming.”
Tensions have been running high in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem over the past month as Israeli settlers swarmed in following a court order for the eviction of Palestinian families in the area.
Most recently, tensions further escalated, moving from East Jerusalem to Gaza after Palestinian resistance groups there vowed to retaliate against Israeli assaults on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah if they were not halted.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 — a move that has never been recognized by the international community.
Erdogan mobilizes the Muslim world
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been leading the criticism of Israeli attacks on innocent Palestinian civilians, as he warned of grave consequences should Israel’s offensive endure.
Erdoğan warned on May 14 that the situation may worsen in Palestine in case the Israeli attacks are not halted and called on both individual countries and international organizations to swiftly intervene.
“It is imperative that the U.N. Security Council rapidly take steps to ensure peace and tranquility in Jerusalem, in line with the decisions taken in the General Assembly. As Turkey, we are ready to actively support any initiative launched within the U.N. and to take responsibility for peace,” Erdoğan said.
Erdogan, who has repeatedly condemned Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians, said on Saturday Israel was a “terror state” after Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at Palestinian protesters at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.
Underlining that Jerusalem is the sacred city for three main religions and that Israeli attempt to loot the city is unacceptable, President Erdoğan accused Tel Aviv of crossing all the possible limits in Jerusalem.
“To stand against Israel’s aggression in Palestinian cities, Jerusalem is duty of honor for humanity,” he said, describing Israel as a terror state. “Those who remain silent or openly back Israel’s bloodshed should know one day it will be their turn.”
As Turkey continues its efforts to rally support from all relevant institutions, chiefly the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to support Palestine, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held phone talks with the leaders of nearly 20 nations, including Palestine, Russia, Pakistan, Kuwait and Algeria.
He urged the leaders to take a united stance against Israeli raids and attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem.
Erdogan first got in touch with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ political chief Ismael Haniyeh.
In contacts made since May 8, Erdogan has discussed the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Jordan’s King Abdullah II among others.
Erdogan also spoke with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He continued his diplomacy traffic with President of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Ersin Tatar, Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Libya’s Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, Oman’s Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq and Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.
What action will this lead to?
Although Erdogan has led the criticism of Israel’s actions, and called various leaders in the Muslim world addressing this issue, there are still question marks as to whether this will lead to any significant action.
Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey continues to mobilise all relevant international institutions, especially the United Nations and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, to support Palestine and teach Israel a “deterrent lesson,” but it is not guaranteed that the UN or the OIC will follow through.
President Erdogan said that they are taking initiatives at all levels to mobilize the entire world, especially the Islamic world, to stop the terror and occupation carried out by Israel. He reaffirmed that Turkey will remain as a supporter of the Palestinian cause and keep standing with its Palestinian brothers. The Turkish president also said that Turks will continue to protect the glory of Jerusalem.
Pointing out that the main target of Israel’s lawlessness and inhumane attacks is essentially all Muslims, the president also noted that the importance of working together for the immediate cessation of Israel’s attacks. Erdogan said that the international community’s strong and deterrent response as well as concrete steps against illegal practices and support for Palestine are necessary.
Erdogan said it was important for the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the issue before the crisis grows further, and the idea of sending an international protection force to the region to protect Palestinian civilians should also be worked on.
Interestingly however, there are signs that Turkey could be looking to send its forces to Palestine, as a part of an international peacekeeping force.
Saying that sending international peacekeeping forces to protect Palestinians is an issue that has to be considered, Erdoğan said that he believed Turkey and Russia would display close cooperation in the U.N. in this regard.
It remains to be seen whether the UN or Russia would be open to such a possibility.