Muslims should support their brothers in faith suffering from Israel’s actions at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Erdogan told members of the ruling AK Party on Tuesday.
“From here I call upon all Muslims. Those who are able to should visit Al-Aqsa… Those who cannot visit Al-Aqsa should send aid to our brothers there,” Erdogan said in Ankara, as cited by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
“When Israeli soldiers carelessly pollute the grounds of Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple issues as a pretext and then easily spill blood there, the reason [they are able to do that] is we [Muslims] have not done enough to stake our claim over Jerusalem,” Erdogan said.
He added that Turkish authorities are doing their utmost to protect Christian and Jewish places of worship from extremist attacks, saying that Turkey has “no issues with them,” according to Reuters.
Erdogan also said he had spoken to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and told him that Muslims visiting Al-Aqsa mosque could not be treated as terrorists. “We can also not accept Jews going to synagogues and temples being treated as terrorists,” he said.
On Sunday, Erdogan also pressed Tel Aviv to dismantle security fences around the Temple Mount, arguing the Israelis’ conduct went beyond democratic standards.
He called on Israel to respect “basic human rights values,” also condemning it for “disregarding all warnings to maintain its position.”
“Metal detectors and other restrictions must be lifted immediately and the current status quo must be restored,” Erdogan insisted.
The Turkish leader’s statement followed days of spiraling violence sparked over access to the Al-Aqsa mosque at the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Earlier in the month, Israeli authorities introduced additional security measures, installing metal detectors and CCTV cameras outside the mosque, causing protests from Palestinian worshippers.
On Friday, three Palestinians were killed during rallies in the city, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas froze all contacts with Israel in light of the dispute. The same day three members of a Jewish family were murdered in a stabbing attack at a settlement on the West Bank.
The Arab League issued a statement telling Israel not to test the patience of the Muslim world.
“The Israeli government is playing with fire and risking a major crisis with the Arab and Islamic world,” secretary general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said in a statement on Sunday.
The official stressed “Jerusalem is a red line that Muslims and Arabs cannot allow to be crossed,” adding, “what is happening today is an attempt to impose a new reality on the Holy city.”
Israeli authorities on Tuesday made a decision to dismantle security installations, replacing them with “advanced technological means.”
“The cabinet accepts the recommendation of security officials to replace the metal detectors with security inspection based on advanced technologies – smart inspection – and other means to ensure the security of visitors and worshipers in the Old City of Jerusalem,” the Israeli government said in a statement quoted by Haaretz.