Fury grows in Turkey against Israel, fresh protests staged

By Ece Toksabay and Ali Kucukgocmen

ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkish protesters staged fresh anti-Israel demonstrations on Wednesday as Turkey was set to declare three days of mourning following a blast that killed large numbers of Palestinians at a Gaza hospital.

Palestinian officials said the blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital was caused by an Israeli air strike. Israel blamed the blast on a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which denied responsibility.

President Tayyip Erdogan called the explosion “the latest example of Israeli attacks devoid of the most basic human values”.

Turkey’s presidential communications office quickly branded Israel’s claim “#FakeNews” on social media platform X.

Erdogan declared three days of mourning in Turkey late on Wednesday for the Palestinians killed at the hospital in Gaza.

Overnight Turks marched with Palestinian flags and chanted slogans denouncing Israel in at least a dozen Turkish cities, including outside the Israeli embassy in the capital Ankara.

Police used pepper spray and water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters who tried to enter the compound of Israel’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. Five people were detained, the Istanbul governor’s office said.

Israel’s National Security Council (NSC) issued a warning against travel to Turkey, citing fears that Israelis would be targeted by those angry at the war. It also urged Israeli citizens in Turkey to leave as soon as possible.

Following the NSC’s appeal, Israeli airlines arranged flights from Istanbul late on Wednesday for Israelis who want to leave Turkey.

“I want to be at home. That’s all,” an Israeli woman, who declined to give her name, told Reuters while queuing for the flight check-in at Istanbul Airport.

On Wednesday, there was a large security presence around the consulate, with hundreds of police officers and around 10 water cannon vehicles deployed behind a line of metal barriers. Police conducted identity checks on those seeking to pass through.

Protesters held fresh demonstrations near consulates of Israel and the United States in Istanbul on Wednesday evening. In Ankara, a few hundred protesters marched following a symbolic funeral prayer held for those killed in the hospital.

The U.S. consulate in southern city of Adana will remain closed until further notice and U.S. government personnel have been instructed to minimise movements in Turkey due to protests, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said in a statement.

Political analysts said the Gaza hospital blast could have dire consequences for ties between Israel and Turkey.

“Ankara is now likely to assume a much harder anti-Israel stance…,” said Wolfango Piccoli at Teneo.

“Erdogan may even decide to abandon the rapprochement with Israel, which was initiated in 2022 after more than 10 years of fraught ties between the two countries… A deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel would also likely impact Turkey-U.S. ties, creating further stress between the two NATO allies at a volatile time.”

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay, Mert Ozkan and Huseyin Hayatsever in Ankara, Bulent Usta, Dilara Senkaya, Daren Butler, Ali Kucukgocmen, Umit Bektas and Mehmet Emin Caliskan in Istanbul, Steven Scheer in Jerusalem; Editing by Gareth Jones and Sandra Maler)