Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip dwarfs the atrocities Hitler committed during World War II.
“They curse Hitler morning and night,” Erdogan tells thousands of supporters in the Black Sea city of Ordu in video footage carried by the IHA news agency. “However, now their barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s.”
Israeli government officials weren’t available for comment. The Ha’aretz newspaper said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Erdogan’s “anti-Semitic” remarks in a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying they desecrated the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews died.
Erdogan had already invoked the Nazi leader to criticize an Israeli lawmaker on July 15. On July 18, he accused Israel of attempted “genocide” in Gaza. Israel ordered the withdrawal of diplomats’ families from Turkey last week after anti-Israel protests there.
Relations between Turkey and Israel, former regional allies, frayed after Israel raided a Turkish flotilla that tried to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Nine Turks died on board and a 10th recently died of his wounds.
Erdogan’s comments are likely to indefinitely push back efforts at reconciliation, which had gained momentum last year after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the 2010 killings. Erdogan also denounced Israel repeatedly during its last ground offensive in Gaza in 2009, stomping off a stage with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Israel’s military offensive, meant to quell rocket fire and destroy infiltration tunnels, has killed more than 400 Palestinians since it started last week. At least seven Israelis have been killed.