Israel needs to respect Al-Aqsa mosque, Erdoğan says


resident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted the importance of coexistence and tolerance, and urged Israel to recognize Palestine and respect Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered to be one of the holiest places for Muslims throughout the world.

"Israel's legitimacy makes sense to the extent it respects the rights of itself, Palestine and Palestinians" Erdoğan said at the Justice and Development (AK Party) Party parliamentary group meeting in Ankara.

"Everyone who knows Israel is aware that restrictions on Al-Aqsa mosque are not due to safety concerns. Israel is trying to take Al-Aqsa from Muslims under the guise of counter-terrorism efforts," Erdoğan said.

The president also urged Muslims to take an active role in protecting the holy compound and embrace it.

Opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli also criticized Tuesday Israeli recstrictions on Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Speaking at a meeting of MHP lawmakers in Ankara, Bahçeli said Israel's governance was no different from terror. "Israel has suppressed and even suspended the freedom of thought and faith [in Jerusalem]," he said.

"The Zionism mentality, which has tried every dark way to do religious and ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, will surely be embarrassed and be defeated," Bahçeli said.

The MHP leader said the Muslim Turkish nation is aware of the plot being executed in Jerusalem, urging the Israeli authorities to respect sanctities of Al-Aqsa and stop violating the rights of life and property of Palestinians.

Bahçeli also ruled out any attack targeting synagogues and the Jewish community in Turkey. "Any harm to our Jewish citizens or their religious preferences and beliefs is an ugliness that is incompatible with Turkey and the Turkish nation, and we can never approve it."

The city of Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the Islamic world's third-holiest site.

Clashes and protests have taken place throughout the West Bank when Israel restricted entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, revered by both Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.

The mosque was reopened after a two-day closure, with Israel installing metal detectors at the mosque gates, which Palestinians say aim to change the status quo -- a delicate balance of prayer and visiting rights.

Three Palestinians were killed on Friday in protests against the Israeli measures around the holy site. Three Israelis were also killed in an attack in a settlement in the West Bank.

Under immense international pressure for de-escalation, Israel only accepted to remove the detectors under international pressure on early Tuesday.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming all of Jerusalem as the Jewish state's "eternal" capital -- a move never recognized by the international community.

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