Turkey says US shares blame for Gaza 'massacre' as thousands protest

Istanbul (AFP) –


Turkey on Monday accused the United States of sharing responsibility with Israel for a "vile massacre" along the Gaza border in which 52 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.

Thousands marched through central Istanbul in an angry protest to denounce the bloodshed as the US moved its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in defiance of outrage in the Islamic world.

"The United States, unfortunately, took its place without complaint alongside the Israeli government in this massacre of civilians and became a party to this crime against humanity," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in Ankara.

"This is a vile massacre and we condemn it strongly," he added.

Yildirim said the events were "incompatible" with the US acting as a mediator or protector of world peace.

Protesters in Istanbul marched down Istiklal street shouting slogans including "Israel's capital is the White House", responding to a call to protest from pro-government aid group IHH.

Others yelled "Down with America, down with Israel" and some urged Turkey to close Israeli missions in the country, yelling: "Shut down the Zionist embassy."

Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdag wrote on Twitter that the violence came after "unjust and unlawful decisions", referring to the embassy move from Tel Aviv to disputed Jerusalem.

"The US administration is as responsible as the Israeli government for this massacre," he said.

Violent clashes erupted along Gaza's border hours ahead of the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which was attended by a White House delegation and Israeli officials.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials have repeatedly condemned the US decision to move the embassy, warning it risked inflaming tensions.

"The US administration moving its embassy to Jerusalem destroyed the chances for peace and ignited a fire that will cause more human losses and injuries as well as destruction and catastrophe in the region," said Bozdag.

"From now, nothing will be the same in the causes of Palestine and Jerusalem."

- 'Suspend Israel ties' -

Erdogan regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and last year held a summit of Islamic countries in Istanbul to denounce the move by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

However Turkey also maintains full trade and diplomatic links with the Jewish state after a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a dispute over the deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos.

"The world's Muslims are up in arms against Israel's actions which are backed by the Americans," said Istanbul protester Sidika Aydin.

Omer Faruk, a pensioner, added: "We want the Turkish government to cancel and suspend all the agreements with Israel. We also expect the government to be more careful in its future ties with Israel."