Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkır slammed Israel for an incursion into al-Aqsa Mosque, telling the Israeli soldiers to leave the sacred site at once.
“I am sending this message to those soldiers who enter [al-Aqsa Mosque] with their boots: If you don’t leave it immediately, we will hand you your boots and watch you run away,” Bozkır was quoted by private Doğan news agency as telling a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the southwestern province of Burdur on Sunday.
Israeli police clashed with Palestinians on Wednesday at the entrance to the 8th-century mosque, Islam’s third most sacred place, after what Palestinians call an illegal storming of the mosque by Israeli extremists protected by some 300 Israeli security forces. Palestinian officials said Israeli forces had crossed the threshold of the mosque for the first time since 1967, while Israeli police denied going into the house of worship.
Palestinian officials say that Israeli police went far inside the mosque wearing their shoes in a sign of disrespect for Muslims, who leave their shoes outside.
Bozkır,a former diplomat, said Turkey will protect peace in Palestine. “Turkey will not allow [people to] disrupt peaceful orders that we established in Palestine or anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Since capturing east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, Israel has maintained a ban on Jews praying at a sacred compound that houses the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.
In recent weeks, however, a campaign by far-right Jewish nationalists, including ministers in the Israeli government, to be allowed to pray at the site has gathered momentum, which led to clashes at the compound between Israeli security forces and Muslim worshippers angry at what they see as an assault on a shrine that is administered by Islamic authorities.
The area is run by Muslim authorities under Jordanian custody.
Turkey lashed out at Israel for the incursion into al-Aqsa Mosque, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu calling it “barbaric.” Davutoğlu also said it was a “divine duty” for Turkey to protect al-Aqsa Mosque.