Ankara - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “terrorising the region” with its bombardment of Gaza and likened an Israeli politician to Hitler in a broadside likely to further strain the fragile relations between the two countries.
Israel on Tuesday resumed its assault on the Gaza Strip, six hours after an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire failed to halt cross-border rocket salvoes by Palestinian militants.
At least 184 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed since the Israeli military operations began a week ago.
“With utter disregard for international law, Israel continues to terrorise the region, and no country but us tells it to stop,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party at a speech in parliament on Tuesday.
“No tyranny is everlasting, sooner or later every tyrant has to pay the price... This tyranny will not remain unaccounted for,” he added.
His words drew chants of “Turkey is proud of you” from his supporters.
Ankara was formerly Israel's closest strategic ally in the region, but Erdogan has been increasingly vociferous in his criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians in recent years.
The rhetoric plays well with his largely conservative Sunni Muslim voter base, particularly as he campaigns to become Turkey's first directly elected president in an August 10 vote.
Erdogan also censured an Israeli lawmaker, apparently Ayelet Shaked of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, which sits in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government.
“An Israeli woman said Palestinian mothers should be killed, too. And she's a member of the Israeli parliament. What is the difference between this mentality and Hitler's?” he said.
Pro-Palestinian media last week accused Shaked of inciting violence after she posted an extract on Facebook from the writings of an Israeli journalist, saying that “mothers of the martyrs” should also be killed, referring to Palestinian women whose sons carry out suicide bombings with their encouragement.
“They should follow in the footsteps of their sons. There is nothing more just than that. They need to go... Otherwise, they will raise more little snakes there,” the post stated.
Shaked's office denied she had incited violence and the politician herself had harsh words for Erdogan.
“I'm sorry that an anti-Semitic leader heads the Turkish government,” she told Israel's Channel Two television.
“I very much hope that the ties between the countries, and between the Jewish people and the Turkish people, will continue to be strong and steadfast, in spite of their leader.”
Erdogan's remarks are likely to further complicate relations between the two countries, which reached a nadir in 2010, when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of an aid flotilla challenging the Jewish State's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Ten people were killed.
Efforts to repair relations have intensified in recent months after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologised for the raid and pledged to pay compensation, as part of a US-brokered rapprochement. Earlier this year, Erdogan hinted that the two sides were on the brink of a deal. - Reuters