Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went at each other’s necks via Twitter, accusing each other of brutality and human rights abuses.
The spat on Tuesday went down in the wake of violence on the Israeli-Gaza border on Monday during which Israeli forces killed at least 60 Palestinian protesters, coinciding with the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
Turkey’s government loudly condemned the killings.
“Israel is wreaking state terror. Israel is a terror state,” Erdogan said in a speech for state television Monday. “What Israel has done is a genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America.”
In response, Netanyahu shared some choice words for the Turkish president on Twitter, saying, “Erdogan is among Hamas’s biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us.”
Hamas is a militant Islamist group with a political arm that governs the Gaza Strip, and which the U.S. designates a terrorist organization. Israel has defended its actions, citing the need to defend its borders and protect its citizens from violence it said was directed by Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis since the 1990s. Palestine says the protests were peaceful and the demonstrators unarmed.
Erdogan shot back at the tweet, writing, “Netanyahu is the PM of an apartheid state that has occupied a defenseless people’s lands for 60+ yrs in violation of UN resolutions. He has the blood of Palestinians on his hands and can’t cover up crimes by attacking Turkey.”
“Want a lesson in humanity? Read the 10 commandments,” the president finished.
World leaders condemned and expressed concern over the deaths, while the U.S. squarely blamed Hamas and reiterated Israel’s claim to self-defense.
Outside of Twitter, the leaders put their anger into actions: Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and consul there, while Israel expelled the Turkish consul in Jerusalem. The officials were reportedly humiliated on their way out, forced to undergo strict security screening and invasive inspections.
Hamas officials have vocally encouraged the Gaza protests, though civil society groups and other unaffiliated Palestinians also played leading roles in the uprising. Protests have gone on for several weeks to mark the 70th anniversary of the “Nakbah,” when residents of the occupied territories lost their land during the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes, and were not granted the right to return.
The UN classifies Israel as an occupier state over the Palestinian territories, whose occupations following the 1967 Six-Day War are still considered in violation of international law. More than 1.5 million Palestinians live in refugee camps across the Middle East today.
Both leaders have been roundly criticized by rights groups for human rights violations — Erdogan for state-sponsored violence against Kurdish communities as well as crackdowns on democratic freedoms, and Netanyahu for his policies toward the Palestinians.
Netanyahu and Erdogan trade insults on Twitter over Gaza violence