ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “terrorizing the region” with its bombardment of Gaza and likened an Israeli politician to Hitler in a broadside likely to further strain fragile relations between the two countries.
Israel on Tuesday resumed its assault on Gaza, six hours after an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire failed to halt the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israeli territory.
At least 184 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed since operations by the Israeli military began a week ago.
“With utter disregard for international law, Israel continues to terrorize the region, and no country but us tells it to stop,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party at a speech in parliament on Tuesday.
“No tyranny is everlasting, sooner or later every tyrant has to pay the price...This tyranny will not remain unaccounted for,” he added.
His words drew chants of “Turkey is proud of you” from his supporters.
Ankara was formerly Israel’s closest strategic ally in the region, but Erdogan has been increasingly vociferous in his criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in recent years.
The rhetoric plays well with his largely conservative Sunni Muslim voter base, particularly as he campaigns to become Turkey’s first directly elected president in an Aug. 10 vote.
Erdogan also criticized an Israeli member of parliament, apparently Ayelet Shaked of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party.
“An Israeli woman said Palestinian mothers should be killed, too. And she’s a member of the Israeli parliament. What is the difference between this mentality and Hitler’s,” he said.
Pro-Palestinian media last week accused Shaked of inciting violence after she posted an extract on Facebook from the writings of another Israeli journalist, saying that “mothers of the martyrs” should also be killed, referring to the mothers of Palestinian suicide bombers.
“They should follow in the footsteps of their sons. There is nothing more just than that. They need to go...Otherwise, they will raise more little snakes there,” the post stated.
On Tuesday, Shaked’s spokeswoman confirmed the post but denied she was inciting violence.
“It is preposterous to argue that Member of Knesset Shaked called for harming innocents. Member of Knesset Shaked condemns violence of any kind,” the spokeswoman said.
Erdogan’s remarks are likely to further complicate relations between the two countries, which reached a nadir in 2010, when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of an aid flotilla challenging the Jewish State’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Ten people were killed.
Efforts to repair relations have intensified in recent months after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the raid and pledged to pay compensation, as part of a U.S.-brokered rapprochement. Earlier this year Erdogan hinted that the two sides were on the brink of a deal.
Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay in Istanbul and Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Editing by Nick Tattersall and Angus MacSwan