Anti-Israel protest at Istanbul synagogue

A Turkish police officer stands guard in front of Neve Shalom Synagogue on March 30, 2016 in Istanbul.

:: A group of Turkish ultra-nationalists on Thursday protested outside one of the most significant synagogues in Istanbul to denounce Israel’s security measures at a sensitive holy site in annexed east Jerusalem, the Dogan news agency said.

The group from the Alperen Hearths, a far-right ultranationalist and Islamist youth group, said in a statement read outside the Neve Salom synagogue in central Istanbul that Israel was a “terror state” seeking to block freedom for worship to Muslims.

“If you prevent our freedom of worship there then we will prevent your freedom of worship here,” said the statement, read by the group’s local chairman Kursat Mican.

The Foundation of the Turkish Chief Rabbinate — which looks after the country’s small Jewish community mainly concentrated in Istanbul — angrily criticized the protest.

“We condemn the provocative action outside the Neve Salom synagogue tonight. We expect that the relevant authorities will take the necessary measures,” it said in a statement.

According to Dogan, some protesters kicked the doors of the synagogue and threw stones. They later dispersed.

The synagogue usually has a heavy police guard. It was targeted by deadly attacks in 1986 — blamed on Palestinian militants — and again in 2003, which was attributed to Islamists.

While nationalists protest occasionally outside Israel’s diplomatic missions in Turkey, a demonstration outside a synagogue is unusual.

Muslim Palestinians have been refusing to enter the Haram al-Sharif compound in annexed east Jerusalem since Sunday, when Israel began installing metal detectors at entrances to the site following an attack that killed two police officers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Thursday urged his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin to swiftly remove the metal detectors.

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