Turkey Recalls Ambassador To Israel On Eve Of Blinken's Visit

UN chief horrified by Israeli strike at the doorstep of a hospital in Gaza as protesters halt ship weapons from being loaded for Israel

Turkey Recalls Ambassador To Israel On Eve Of Blinken's Visit

Turkey on Saturday joined a growing list of countries who have either limited their diplomatic ties or cut them altogether from Israel, adding to Israel's growing diplomatic isolation at the global stage to protest its continued actions in Gaza in response to Hamas' surprise attack nearly a month ago.

A statement issued by Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the eve of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's arrival, read that Ankara was recalling its Ambassador Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, who is stationed in Tel Aviv. It also broke off ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ending a years-long effort to mend ties with Tel Aviv.

"In view of the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Gaza caused by the continuing attacks by Israel against civilians and Israel's refusal of calls for a ceasefire and continuous and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid, it was decided to recall our Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, to Ankara for consultations."

Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that he personally held Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for the high civilian death toll in Gaza and that it had driven Ankara to the point that talks were not possible. 

"Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off," Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying, and that Netanyahu was someone who had also lost the trust of his people.

Erdogan was further reported as saying that he was of the view that it was not possible to completely break off ties with Israel, adding that other lines of communication remain active. Efforts were underway to mediate an end to hostilities.

It follows an unannounced cessation of ties from Bahrain, who have confirmed that Israel's ambassador to the kingdom has departed - as part of a 'security precaution' by Israel in which it recalled ambassadors from all regional countries - while Bahrain's ambassador has returned to the kingdom with flights between the two countries suspended, though economic ties continue officially. Jordan has also recalled its ambassador from Israel.

While UAE - a signatory to the Abraham accords - remains under pressure to cut ties with Israel, it has yet to publicly announce it. However, on Friday, the UAE ruler did join his family for prayers for Gaza.

Elsewhere in the world, Chile, Columbia and Honduras have recalled their ambassadors from Israel, and Bolivia publicly announced severing ties with Israel. 

Earlier in the week, Yemen publicly announced it was at war with Israel and that it had fired missiles towards it. 

Israel admits bombing ambulance

On Saturday, Israel's military confirmed its forces had launched an air strike on "an ambulance that was identified by forces as being used by a Hamas terrorist cell in close proximity to their position in the battle zone." 

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society, however, said that one of its ambulances was struck "by a missile fired by the Israeli forces" right at the doorstep of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, killing 15 people and wounding more than 60 others. Other ambulances parked nearby were also affected, impacting the ability of PRCS to continue its mission of rescuing and providing aid to the injured.

The attack and the videos and images evoked a strong statement from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 

"I am horrified by the reported attack in Gaza on an ambulance convoy outside Al Shifa hospital. The images of bodies strewn on the street outside the hospital are harrowing."

UN chief added, "For nearly one month, civilians in Gaza, including children and women, have been besieged, denied aid, killed, and bombed out of their homes.

"This must stop," he continued, pointing to how essentials such as food, water, medicine and fuel to power hospitals and water plants were running out.

In the midst, he said that people were seeking refuge at UN centres, which continued to be bombed.

He reiterated his call for an urgent ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has soared past 9,500 as the Israeli military said its ground forces had encircled Gaza City with fierce skirmishes reported between Hamas and Israeli troops.