Turkey’s president on Sunday criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his remarks targeting Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operation in Afrin, Syria.
“He says our soldiers are oppressing people in Afrin. Netanyahu, you are very weak, very poor,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We are dealing with terrorists, but you are not. Because you are a terror state,” Erdogan told the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party congress in the southern Adana province.
Erdogan’s remarks came after at least 16 Gazans were martyred and hundreds injured on Friday when Israeli forces opened fire on protesters marking “Land Day.”
Land Day is an annual Palestinian commemoration of the deaths of six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli forces in 1976 during demonstrations over government land confiscations in northern Israel.
Calling the Israeli leader “an occupier” in Palestine, Erdogan said Netanyahu has no right to criticize Turkey.
“You are also a terrorist. History is recording what you have done to all those oppressed Palestinians,” Erdogan said, adding that he believes Israelis too are disturbed by Netanyahu’s misdeeds.
Friday’s rallies were the start of a six-week protest that culminates on May 15, the day the Palestinians call “Nakba,” or the Catastrophe, when Israel was founded.
The demonstrators are demanding that Palestinian refugees be allowed the right of return to towns and villages which their families fled from, or were driven out of,when the state of Israel was created in 1948.
Turning to the operation in Afrin, Syria, Erdogan said a total of 3,852 terrorists have been “neutralized” since the start of Operation Olive Branch.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
“We will not stop until the last terrorist is wiped out from our region,” the president said, adding that a total of 326 allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters and 52 Turkish soldiers have been martyred during Operation Olive Branch.
Separately from Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish army neutralized 99 terrorists in northern Iraq and Turkey over the last week, Erdogan said during his visit to the Ogulpinar border post.
Erdogan explained that 68 terrorists were neutralized in Iraq’s Kani Rash region as well as 17 others in Amanos region and 14 across Turkey.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan.[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]20 to clear terrorist groups from Afrin, northwestern Syria, near Turkey’s border, amid growing threats from the region.
On March 18, Turkish-backed troops liberated the town of Afrin, which had been a major hideout for the terrorist organization PYD/PKK since 2012.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and the “utmost care” is being taken to not harm civilians.
FETO operation in Kosovo
Later, speaking at a ruling AK Party congress in the Hatay province, southeast of Adana, Erdogan expressed thanks to Kosovar President Hashim Thaci for helping Turkey secure the deportation of six alleged members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the terrorist group behind a defeated 2016 coup, but criticized Kosovar Premier Ramush Haradinaj for firing top officials afterwards.
“It is a historic mistake to fire the intelligence agents and interior minister who gave us the members of the FETO terrorist organization. They only carried out their duties,” Erdogan said.
“The operation in Kosovo was not the first time and will not be the last,” he added.
In cooperation with Kosovar intelligence, on Thursday Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) arrested six men said to be in charge of FETO activities in the Balkans as well as smuggling FETO terrorist members out of Turkey to go to Europe or the U.S.
Once in Turkey, the alleged FETO members — all wanted under Turkish law as fugitives — were handed over to the judiciary.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader FetullahGulen orchestrated the defeated coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that martyred 250 people and left nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses the group of a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
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