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Turkish-Israeli spar continues as Netanyahu compared to 'Paris terrorists'

Turkish prime minister's comments come after Turkish president likened to an 'anti-Semitic neighbourhood bully'
Turkey's prime ministers speaks at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey this week (AFP)

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday accused his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu of committing "crimes against humanity" comparable to those of the Islamist gunmen behind the Paris attacks that left 17 dead.

Davutoglu's comments risk enflaming a new row in the increasingly tense bilateral relationship after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Netanyahu for "daring" to attend the weekend's anti-terror solidarity march in Paris after the attacks.

"Netanyahu has committed crimes against humanity the same as those terrorists who carried out the Paris massacre," he told reporters in Ankara in televised comments.

Davutoglu sniped that Netanyahu had looked "alone" at the Paris march against terrorism, where the Turkish and Israeli prime ministers had joined other world leaders in a show of solidarity. 

A statement by the Turkish presidency Thursday said Netanyahu had staged "a miserable political show" by attending the Paris rally and had sought to exploit the event for "his own political purposes".

"The Israeli government should abandon its aggressive and racist policies, instead of attacking others under the pretext of anti-Semitism," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in the statement.

Netanyahu had spat back Wednesday that Erdogan's "shameful remarks must be repudiated by the international community".

The row comes on top of a controversy in Turkey over the publication of cartoons in the Turkish media showing the Prophet Mohammed from the first issue of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo since 12 people were killed at its offices in the attacks.

Responding to the new cover, Egypt and Morocco made moves to ban the magazine, while Turkey banned the printing of the cover. A Turkish court went a step further on Thursday, seeking to block websites featuring the cover after a magazine printed the image inside its publication. 

Late Thursday, Jordan's King Abdullah II added his voice to the fray with the country's royal palace issuing a statement that called the new cartoon's publication a "irresponsible, reckless and thoughtless act".

Davutoglu condemned the publication as an "open provocation", warning that Turkey would not tolerate insults against Mohammed.

"Freedom of the press does not mean freedom to insult," said Davutoglu. "We do not allow any insult to the prophet in this country."

'Neighbourhood bully' 

Davutoglu said Netanyahu's "crimes against humanity" included the deadly 2010 Israeli assault on a Turkish aid vessel and last year's onslaught on Hamas-controlled Gaza.

In 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in an aid flotilla for the besieged Gaza Strip.

Nine Turks died in the raid and one more died in hospital this year after four years in a coma. Meanwhile nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in Israel's offensive on Gaza earlier last year.

Davutoglu said Netanyahu was "the head of a government which massacred children playing in the beaches in Gaza and destroyed thousands of houses".

He said the Israeli premier's government "made almost natural the killing of Palestinians at every opportunity".

It had also "massacred our citizens by launching an operation against an aid ship in international waters."

The Israeli government declined to comment on Davutoglu's latest remarks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had Wednesday condemned Erdogan as a "anti-Semitic neighbourhood bully" and called on Europe to do more to fight against his rhetoric.

"The silence of those European states in the face of the repeated outbursts against Israel by Erdogan . . . contributes to the same murderous hatred of Jews in Europe," he said.

Davutoglu said he "would not even bother to answer Lieberman", adding Turkey had a proud record of hosting Jews dating back to giving sanctuary to those expelled from Spain in the 15th century.

Turkey's relations with Israel - once a key partnership for the Jewish state with a Muslim nation - have steadily deteriorated under Erdogan's rule.

The fraying ties has exasperated the US, which is keen for key NATO member Turkey to have a close military relationship with Israel.

The Turkish president is known for his angry outbursts at the Jewish state, declaring in July that Israel had "surpassed Hitler in barbarism".

In 2009, Erdogan walked off the stage at the World Economic Forum after an angry exchange with the then Israeli president, Shimon Peres.

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