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Turkey's Erdogan tells Herzog he is 'very upset' by Israeli actions at al-Aqsa Mosque

Turkish leader criticises repeated Israeli raids on al-Aqsa Mosque that have resulted in more than 170 wounded Palestinians and hundreds more arrested
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech as he attends an Iftar meal with Turkish soldiers during the holy month of Ramadan, on 13 April 2022 (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday told his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, that he was "very upset" about the Palestinians injured or killed in the West Bank and al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israeli forces have raided al-Aqsa Mosque four times over the past week, clearing out Palestinian worshippers to allow entry for Israeli settlers marking the Jewish festival of Passover. More than 170 Palestinians have been injured in the attacks and hundreds more arrested. 

The spike in raids recalls the violence last year during Ramadan when Israeli forces attacked al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, and tried to expel Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers.

This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian community inside Israel, triggering Israel's large-scale military operation on the besieged Gaza Strip in May 2021. 

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President Erdogan said on his Twitter account that he told Herzog "the fact that al-Aqsa Mosque was attacked by fanatical groups after morning prayers yesterday and the day before... and the tension in Gaza have increased our sadness”.

"At this sensitive time, I would like to stress once again the need not to allow provocations and threats against the status and spirituality of al-Aqsa Mosque," the Turkish President added.

The Turkish leader has sought to mend fences with Israel, along with other regional states in recent months, as he contends with spiralling inflation and an economic crisis at home. Last month, Herzog travelled to Ankara in a historic visit that both sides hailed as a turning point in their relations.

Erdogan is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and in the past has vocally criticised Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.

Turkey's decision to maintain close ties with Hamas has been a particular point of contention between Ankara and Israel's leadership.

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