Istanbul (AFP) – Thousands of supporters of a conservative Turkish party rallied in Istanbul on Sunday to protest measures taken by Israel in Jerusalem and show solidarity with the Palestinians.
Israel had angered Turkey by installing metal detectors and security cameras at the Haram al-Sharif holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, following a July 14 attack in which gunmen killed two policemen.
The move sparked Muslim protests and deadly unrest, and last week the Israeli government removed the detectors and cameras.
But feelings remain high in Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the removal of the detectors was “not enough”.
Sunday’s protest was called by the Saadet (Felicity) Party, which sprung from the same Islamic-rooted political movement as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Erdogan but is seen as more religiously conservative.
Under the slogan of “Israel understands a show of strength”, the rally was held at the vast Yenikapi Square by the Sea of Marmara which has been the scene of many of Erdogan’s biggest meetings.
However there was no sign of any senior government official at the meeting.
A mass of people, waving Palestinian and Turkish flags, chanted slogans such as “Istanbul and Jerusalem are arm-in-arm”.
“I hope that when they see how many people are here, then Israel will get the message,” said protester Sadik Sen. “We want to show to our Muslim brothers there that we are behind them.”
Improbably, Saadet’s chairman Temel Karamollaoglu had also sent a letter of invitation to football star Cristiano Ronaldo. But there was also no sign of the Real Madrid and Portugal player.
Last year Turkey and Israel ended a rift triggered by Israel’s deadly storming in 2010 of a Gaza-bound ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead. The two sides have since embarked on a close energy cooperation to pipe Israeli gas to Turkey.
But Erdogan, who regards himself a champion of the Palestinian cause, is still often critical of Israeli policy and his comments on the crisis have been among his toughest on Israel since the reconciliation deal.