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Islamic summit calls for 'international force' to protect Palestinians

Turkey's Erdogan compares Israel's actions against Palestinians to Nazi persecution of Jews
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation holds emergency summit over Gaza killings (AFP)

A summit of Muslim leaders in Istanbul on Friday, chaired by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for an international force to protect the Palestinians after Israel killed dozens on the Gaza border.

The final communique issued by leaders of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said Israel had carried out the "willful murder of at least 60 civilians" when Palestinians protested on the Gaza border on Monday.

It called "for the international protection of the Palestinian population including through dispatching of international protection force".

The statement also angrily lashed out at the United States, saying that Washington was complicit in the actions of Israel against the Palestinians.

It denounced the "savage crimes committed by the Israeli forces with the backing of the US administration".

This was the second emergency OIC meeting Erdogan has hosted in the space of half a year, with the December 2017 summit, also in Istanbul, denouncing US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The statement said that move had "further emboldened the Israeli government in its reckless behaviour towards civilian Palestinian population".

It strongly warned other counties not to follow the decision by the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

"Any state that follows ... is complicit in undermining international law and order."

Erdogan on Friday called on the Muslim world to back Palestinians against what he said was Israel's cruelty in Gaza, and he castigated both the United States and the United Nations over the deaths of dozens of protesters.

The Turkish president has been a vocal critic of Washington's decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem - and of the violence that followed the embassy's opening. Turkey declared three days of mourning after Israeli security forces' killing of Palestinian protesters on Monday.

Erdogan's call came as the UN human rights council voted to send war crimes investigators to look into Israel's response to the protests.

Addressing thousands of supporters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags in Istanbul's Yenikapi neighbourhood, the Turkish president called for Muslim solidarity and said the UN had lost legitimacy for failing to stand up against Washington.

"If the Muslim world stands against cruelty in Gaza together, Israel's recklessness will not last," he said.

"The United Nations, which has failed to take effective steps against the United States, has taken another blow to its already worn-out legitimacy."

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At the OIC meeting, Erdogan told the leaders of Muslim nations that he plans to take the events in Gaza to the UN General Assembly.

He also compared Israel's actions against the Palestinians in Gaza to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in World War II.

"There is no difference between the atrocity faced by the Jewish people in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality that our Gaza brothers are subjected to," he said.

"I will say openly and clearly that what Israel is doing is banditry, brutality and state terror," Erdogan told the summit.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told the rally held ahead of the summit that the world must act. "We call on the international community to intervene immediately to protect our people and to make Israel accountable for its action," he said.

The violence in Gaza has sparked a diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, with both countries expelling each other's senior diplomats this week.

The plight of Palestinians resonates with many Turks, particularly the nationalist and religious voters who form the base of support for Erdogan, who is running for re-election next month.

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