Israel has withdrawn all its diplomatic staff from Turkey for safety reasons, Turkish online newspaper T24 reported on Thursday. Israel’s national security council had already called for the departure of all Israelis in Turkey “as soon as possible” on Tuesday, amid fears of violent attacks against its citizens in the country.
The surge in alleged security threats against Israelis in Turkey came after a fatal explosion at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday, which killed hundreds of Palestinians. Both Hamas and the Israeli authorities blamed each other for the attack. But some countries, mostly Muslim, including Turkey, blamed the Israeli government.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s withdrawal of all its diplomats from Turkey is a “temporary” decision and was not taken as a reaction to Turkey, but only for security reasons, according to T24.
While it was stated that the diplomats would return to their posts in Turkey after a while, no precise timetable had been set.
Massive anti-Israeli protests in Turkey
On Tuesday night, shortly after the hospital explosion, anti-Israeli protesters demonstrated outside the consulate in Istanbul and the embassy in Ankara, shouting pro-Palestinian chants. Several Turkish demonstrators tried to break through security barricades to enter the consulate building. Police arrested five people.
As mass protests continued in various cities across the country, Tel Aviv also raised its travel advisory for Turkey to the highest level in its four-tier warning system.
Turkey maintains ties with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from Gaza on 7 October. The attack resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people and the group took over 200 hostages to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas and has been bombing Gaza City ever since.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Tuesday that his country had been in contact with Hamas over some of the hostages it has been holding in Gaza since 7 October.
Anti-Semitic sentiment on the rise in Turkey
Anti-Semitic sentiment is widespread among Turks, even though Jews constitute only a tiny fraction of the population. In Turkey, criticism of Israeli policy has a tradition of becoming a manifestation of broader anti-Semitism.
Analysts say that during periods of escalation in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, anti-Semitism in the country tends to rise both among the population and in the statements of politicians.
In a recent example of this, in the wake of the hospital blast, a Turkish local councillor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the northern province of Samsun, Suleyman Sezen, said he was “grateful” to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler on Wednesday. “In history, everyone resents Hitler as a racist, but Hitler said, ‘You will curse me for every Jew that I did not kill,’ and he was right,” he said, adding, “After the world is cleansed of Jews, peace and tranquillity will be achieved.”