Israel and Turkey ramp up tension over Gaza

Israel and Turkey ramp up tension with tit-for-tat diplomat dismissals

Israel and Turkey have continued tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats over violence in Gaza that has killed at least 60 Palestinians. It comes ahead of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss "Israeli aggression."

Turkey has ordered the Israeli consul general in Istanbul, Yosef Lefi-Sfari, to temporarily leave the country, in the latest development of an ongoing spat between the two countries, Turkish state media reported Wednesday.

The move comes after Israel's Foreign Ministry summoned a top Turkish diplomat to be reprimanded for his country's "harsh" treatment of Israel's ambassador in Ankara, Eitan Naeh, who Turkey temporarily expelled on Tuesday.

Read more: Opinion: An anniversary, an embassy, and the destructive power of Donald Trump

Also on Wednesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Umut Deniz, the Turkish charge d'affaires in Tel Aviv, was being summoned because of the "inappropriate treatment" of Naeh.

The spat between the two countries has seen Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan exchange heated words on Twitter.

Erdogan tweeted that Netanyahu "has the blood of Palestinians on his hands."

Netanyahu hit back on Twitter, saying "Erdogan is among Hamas's biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us."

Arab foreign ministers to hold talks 

Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting at the Arab League on Thursday to "confront the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people," state media reported Tuesday.

At least 60 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since protests amplified on Monday following the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the Nakba commemoration of Israel's founding.

Read more: 70 years of Nakba: The ongoing struggle of Palestinian refugees

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Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted an Arab diplomatic source as saying the meeting was also "to confront the illegal decision taken by the United States to move its embassy to occupied Jerusalem."

The source also said the Arab League was due to hold a preparatory meeting on Wednesday at the level of permanent representatives.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia released a brief statement of condemnation and reaffirmed its support for "the Palestinian brotherly people" and their "legitimate rights."

Conflicts

Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah targeted

The convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah of the West Bank-based Fatah group was targeted as he made a rare visit to Gaza on March 13. The Palestinian Authority said it held Hamas responsible, having failed to provide adequate security. Hamas claimed the attack was aimed at hurting efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation.

Conflicts

Border demonstrations announced

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip announce a major, peaceful demonstration to be held on the border to claim the right to return to lands now held by Israel. Israel refuses the right to return.

Conflicts

Land Day march

Some 30,000 Palestinians take part in the first of the demonstrations on March 30, marking Land Day, named for the 1976 Arab protests against Israeli plans to expropriate land. Some demonstrators ran at the border fence and 16 were killed by Israeli troops with others injured, and some dying later.

Conflicts

Netanyahu: 'We will hurt them'

Speaking on April 9 in the Israeli town of Sderot, near Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We have one clear and simple rule and we seek to express it constantly: If someone tries to attack you — rise up and attack him. We will not allow, here on the Gaza border, them to hurt us. We will hurt them."

Conflicts

Third round of protests against Israel

The third day of demonstrations on April 13 began with organizers encouraging people to walk on an Israeli flag placed at the protest near the border.

Conflicts

Protesters injured

Palestinians ran to help a young man injured during the border protest on April 13. Stones had been thrown at border guards and the Israeli troops fired on the demonstrators. Some 45 Palestinians have died and hundreds have been injured between March 30 and April 27.

Conflicts

Boy killed on April 20

Protest continued on April 20th, with some Palestinian protesters using kites to transport Molotov cocktails and firebombs over the fence. Israeli snipers killed at least four more Palestinians on April 20th, including a 15-year-old boy. The UN Middle East envoy dubbed the killing "outrageous."

Conflicts

May 15: US Embassy officially moved to Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv

US President Donald Trump's daugher Ivanka is part of the delegation that opened the new US Embassy in Jerusalem. The transfer of the embassy triggered a fresh wave of protests in which 62 people were killed. The deaths have considerably heightened tensions in the area.

Conflicts

US no longer seen as partner in Middle East negotiations

As the US celebrated its embassy move from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, Palestinian protests escalated. The events coincided with the 70th anniversary of the foundation of modern-day Israel, and Nakba Day, when Palestinians recall those who fled or were expelled as Israel was established.

Conflicts

More than 60 people were killed in protests

Palestinians carried away a protester injured on May 15th after demonstrations marking the 70th anniversary of Nakba.

Conflicts

Palestinian youths run from tear gas

Salah al-Bardaweel, a Hamas official said on Palestinian television that all but 12 of the dead were members of Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization is planning to pursue a war crimes complaint against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

Guatemala first to follow US

Despite condemnation from much of the world on the US embassy decision, Guatemala also moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Wednesday, making it the first country to follow in the footsteps of the US.

"This is an important moment for the future of our peoples," Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said at the embassy inauguration ceremony.

"It is not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem right among the first, you were always among the first. You were the second country to recognize Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Paraguay is next in line to move its embassy to Jerusalem later this month.

Early this month while visiting Venezuela, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for Latin American countries not to move their embassies to Jerusalem, saying East Jerusalem was "the capital of the Palestinian state."

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Who owns Jerusalem?

Palestinian envoy in US recalled

On Tuesday the Palestinian envoy to Washington was recalled to Ramallah in protest over the US relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.

Chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization's chief representative in Washington, was already on his way home.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said President Mahmoud Abbas had instructed Zomlot to return to Ramallah.

"When they [the US] opened their embassy in Jerusalem there was a need for a decision from our side and this was our decision," Malki said.

Politics

US Congress passes Jerusalem Embassy Act

Back in 1995, the US Congress passed the so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act, declaring that Jerusalem "should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel." The act, however, also allowed the sitting president to delay the move by signing a waiver every six months. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all reissued the waiver throughout their presidencies, citing security concerns.

Politics

Trump makes campaign promise

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump promised that, if elected, he would relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, describing the holy city as "the eternal capital of the Jewish people." Trump's declaration attracted a great deal of fervor within Israel and won over scores of Jewish and Evangelical voters in the US.

Politics

Trump visits Jerusalem's Western Wall

In May 2017, Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall. The site is located in Jerusalem's Old City, which Israel forces captured during the 1967 Six-Day War. According to reports, Trump considered fulfilling his Jerusalem pledge during the visit, but was advised against such a move by foreign policy officials who feared it would only stoke regional tensions.

Politics

Trump formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital

During a speech at the White House on December 6, 2017, Trump said he had "determined it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," adding that the move was a "recognition of reality." Trump cited the Jerusalem Embassy Act as one of the reasons behind his decision. "While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver," he said.

Politics

Arab world reacts with outrage

Following Trump's announcement, thousands of Muslims worldwide participated in demonstrations protesting his controversial decision. Protesters marched in the streets, burned flags and shouted anti-Israel slogans in countries including Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia and Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Politics

Protests break out in Europe

The protests soon reached Europe. In Germany, on December 8, 2017, mostly Muslim demonstrators attended a rally near the US embassy at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, waving Palestinian flags. The German government was among those warning against Trump's move.

Politics

UN rejects Trump's Jerusalem declaration

On December 21, 2017, an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution condemning US President Donald Trump's decision to name Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A total of 128 countries voted in favor of the measure, while nine voted against it and 35 countries abstained. The vote came after the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Jerusalem.

Politics

US doubles down on Jerusalem embassy promise

On February 23, the US State Department said it would hasten the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem. "The opening will coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. The anniversary falls on May 14. During a visit to Jerusalem in January, US Vice President Mike Pence had said he did not expect the move to be complete before the end of 2019.

Politics

First road signs for new US embassy go up

On May 7, Israeli authorities put up the first road signs pointing to the US embassy in Jerusalem. The signs were put up on the southern side of the city by the US consulate. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat hung the first sign. In a statement, he said: "This is not a dream, it's reality. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and the world is beginning to recognize this fact."

law/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)