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Israel to pull some diplomatic staff from Turkey after violence

AFP , Friday 18 Jul 2014
Istanbul
Riot police use water cannons to stop hundreds of pro-Palestinian Turks who were staging a protest rally outside the Israeli consulate after Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza Strip, in Istanbul, Turkey, early Friday, July 18, 2014 (Photo: AP)
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Israel decided Friday to pull some of its diplomatic staff out of Turkey in the wake of violent protests targeting the buildings of its embassy and consulate in Ankara and Istanbul, an embassy spokesman said.

"Foreign Minister (Avigdor) Lieberman issued a statement... following the demonstrations and instructed the Israeli consulate and embassy to reduce their diplomatic staff in Turkey," the spokesman told AFP, without stating the numbers concerned.

The spokesman emphasised that the Israeli representation in Turkey would not be completely shut down but would be reduced to minimum staffing. The measure also includes the diplomats' families, he added.

The Israeli foreign ministry also accused Turkey's security officials of failing to prevent the violence, he noted.

Hundreds of protesters attacked the Israeli consulate in Istanbul while similar numbers sought to break into the residence of the ambassador in Ankara.

Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to halt the protests in Istanbul in the early hours of the morning but in Ankara they stood on the sidelines.

The crowds in Istanbul, waving Palestinian flags, hurled stones and smashed the windows of the consulate in the upscale Levent district to denounce the Israeli military operations that have left at least 260 Palestinians dead.

Turkey downgraded its diplomatic ties with Israel after the deadly 2010 maritime raid by Israeli commandoes of a Gaza-bound Turkish ship. Ten pro-Palestinian activists were killed as a result of the attack.

Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador, demanded a formal apology, compensation for the victims, and an end to the Gaza blockade.

After a US-brokered apology issued by Israel, both sides were engaged in contacts to mend fences and were close to a compensation agreement. But the Israeli military operation in Gaza Strip has made any normalisation out of the question for the moment.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped up his vehement criticism of the Israeli actions in Gaza, accusing Israel of seeking to carry out a "systematic genocide" of Palestinians. He has ruled out any rapprochement as long the Gaza assaults continued.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online 

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