Turkey: Jerusalem holy site closure ‘crime against humanity’

Israeli border police officers detain a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 17, 2017.

:: Turkey on Monday blasted Israel’s two-day closure of a Jerusalem holy site, following a deadly attack, as a “crime against humanity.”Israel closed the Haram al-Sharif compound, or the Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem, on Friday and Saturday after the attack.

“This decision is a crime against humanity, a crime committed against the freedom of religion. From the point of view of human rights, it’s utterly unacceptable,” Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus, who is also deputy prime minister, said.

“It really is an unacceptable decision, and wounding to the highest degree,” added Kurtulmus, who was speaking at a news conference in Ankara after a cabinet meeting.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fervent supporter of Palestinians, normalized relations with Israel in June last year after bilateral ties deteriorated over a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship that killed 10 Turkish activists.

Volatile ties

However, ties remain volatile. In May, Erdogan spoke out angrily over legal plans in Israel to prevent the use of loudspeakers on minarets to summon Muslims for nightly prayers.

Erdogan accused Israel of practices similar to South African apartheid – remarks that caused Israel to angrily describe him as a “serial human rights violator.”

Last week in contrast, Israel said Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, would visit by year’s end to conclude an agreement for the building of a gas pipeline linking the two countries.

Friday attack

Friday’s attack saw three Arab Israelis open fire on Israeli police, killing two, before fleeing into the compound, where they were shot dead by security forces.

It was among the most serious incidents in Jerusalem in recent years and heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Israeli authorities said the gunmen had come from the flashpoint holy site to carry out the attack.

They took the highly unusual decision of closing the compound for two days and then installed metal detectors at its entrances, triggering anger from Muslim worshippers.

Israeli border police officers stand guard as Palestinians pray just outside Jerusalem’s Old City on July 17, 2017.

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