A Palestinian took hostages in the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv today after shots were fired outside in an incident that appeared to have only an indirect link to recent tensions between the two countries.
Turkey's news agency said embassy security guards captured the attacker, quoting anonymous officials from the embassy. Israeli officials could not confirm the report.
"This is a hostage situation," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, identifying the attacker as Nadim Injaz, a West Bank Palestinian who tried to seek asylum at another embassy four years earlier.
Channel 2 TV played a recording of a phone call it said came from the attacker.
"I have two hostages," he said in Hebrew. "I will blow up the embassy."
A lawyer told Israel Radio, however, that the hostages - the consul and his wife - had escaped.
In his call to Channel 2, Injaz went on, "If they don't let me leave this country now I will burn down the whole building. I will burn everything. I will burn the cars, the doors I will break down the doors. I will break everything."
He said he was demanding asylum and protection from "these murderers the Zionists, the murdering Jews." At the same time, he said that Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas, "should die".
Israel's relations with Turkey have been strained in the wake of the Israeli attack on a Turkish flotilla heading for Gaza on May 31, when nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, and many Palestinians have expressed support for Turkey.
Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv in the wake of the attack on the flotilla. Israel Radio reported from the scene that rescue workers with stretchers tried to enter the seaside embassy compound but left without bringing out any wounded.
The radio report said Turkish officials were not allowing Israeli police or rescue workers to enter the embassy.
"We know of one lightly injured person," Eli Binn of the Israeli rescue service told Channel 10 TV.
The Israeli Maariv newspaper said the man called the paper, identifying himself as Injaz, the Palestinian who sought asylum at the British embassy in Tel Aviv in 2006. He said he had a flammable liquid and threatened, "I will kill any Jew that enters."
The Turkish Anatolia news agency reported that security guards at the embassy captured the attacker, and the situation was under control.
Israeli police said Injaz is from the West Bank city of Ramallah and was recently released from prison after serving time for his previous embassy attack.
They said at that time that Injaz was an informer and a criminal with a record of property and drug offences who had encountered financial and legal troubles.
He told an Israeli TV station in 2006 that he feared he would be killed by Palestinian militants if he returned to the West Bank.
Lawyer Shafik Abuani told Israel Radio that he talked to the man three times by telephone, trying to calm him down. The lawyer said Injaz threatened to burn the embassy down if he is not granted asylum.
It was unclear what his relation to the hostage-taker was.
Mr Abuani said Injaz demanded to be flown to Turkey and said he was being persecuted by the Israeli Shin-Bet security force.
The lawyer said only the Turkish consul and his wife were in the building at the time, and they escaped.
"I am in touch with the consul all the time by cell phone, and nothing happened to them, they're okay," he said.Reuse content