Turkish PM slams Israel over Gaza airstrikes

Photo: Turkish PM slams Israel over Gaza airstrikes / Turkey

Relations between Turkey and Israel will never normalize as long as Israel continues its offensive against Palestinians, Turkish Prime Minister and presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

"First you have to stop this cruelty; otherwise it is impossible to achieve normalization," Erdogan told a packed crowd of supporters during a rally in the central Anatolian city of Yozgat.

Erdogan's remarks came after Israeli forces launched a large scale military offensive on the Gaza strip since late Monday.

"If the world is longing for peace, here is an Israel which has been assaulting with hundreds of thousands of bombs by using disproportionate force against innocent and oppressed people," Erdogan said. "For how long will you continue to remain silent on this?"

The Turkish-Israeli relations have been strained since Israeli commandos killed eight Turks along with Turkish-American in May 2010 when they attacked an aid flotilla including Turkish ship Mavi Marmara while she was in international waters off Gaza.

Erdogan has said that although Israel fulfilled two of the three conditions -- apology and compensation -- which Turkey had set for the normalization of the ties after the attack, it remains unwilling to fulfill the third condition, which is lifting the embargo over the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza flotilla attack led to international outrage and soured Turkish-Israeli ties. Last year, obligated by the U.S., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered an apology to Turkey during a phone conversation with Erdogan.

The two states then started negotiations on a compensation deal for the families of the victims. Israel reportedly offered $20 million compensation to the families of those Turks who died in the raid.

Since late Monday, Israeli warplanes have pounded the Gaza Strip as part of a military offensive -- dubbed "Operation Protective Edge" -- with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from Gaza.

At least 86 Gazans have been killed and hundreds injured since Monday by unrelenting Israeli airstrikes.

The latest escalations follow the disappearance and death of three teenage Jewish settlers in the West Bank last month and the subsequent murder by Jewish extremists of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy.

Follow us on Twitter @TRENDNewsAgency