Turkish leader calls Israeli counterpart a 'bully' and compares him to militants responsible for Charlie Hebdo massacre

Inflammatory remarks were made during a press conference

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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has compared Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to the masked Islamist militants responsible for the Paris massacre last week, saying both had committed crimes against humanity.

Mr Davutoglu said Israel's bombardments of Gaza and its storming in 2010 of a Turkish-led aid convoy headed there, in which 10 Turks were killed, were on a par with the Paris attacks, whose dead included shoppers at a Jewish supermarket.

The comments, made at a press conference, will have escalated a war of words between the former allies.

Israel's far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called President Tayyip Erdogan an "anti-Semitic bully" on Wednesday for criticising Mr Netanyahu's attendance, with other world leaders, at a Paris solidarity march for the victims on Sunday.

Turkey condemned the attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, in which gunmen killed 12 people, but has also warned that rising Islamophobia in Europe risks inflaming unrest by Muslims.


Mr Davutoglu also attended the Paris memorial rally, which he said was a march against terrorism.

"Just as the massacre in Paris committed by terrorists is a crime against humanity, Netanyahu, as the head of the government that kills children playing on the beach with the bombardment of Gaza, destroys thousands of homes ... and that massacred our citizens on an aid ship in international waters, has committed crimes against humanity," the Turkish premier said.

"If Israel is looking for a bully, it needs to look in the mirror," said Mr Davutoglu, whose Islamist-rooted AK Party has held power in Turkey for over a decade.

Tensions are running high in Turkey over the Charlie Hebdo's cartoons mocking Islam, the reason cited for the shooting attack on the weekly in a claim of responsibility by al Qaeda in Yemen.

Mr Davutoglu criticised the Turkish secular newspaper Cumhuriyet for publishing excerpts of Charlie Hebdo's latest edition, saying freedom of the press did not extend to insulting religious values, a crime punishable by jail in Turkey.

Cumhuriyet's was one of five international versions of the "survivors' edition" of Charlie Hebdo, which bore an image of Mohammed on its cover, which is prohibited by Islamic convention. A Turkish court subsequently ordered four websites that featured the image to be blocked.

"Freedom of press does not include insulting the Prophet," Mr Davutoglu said. "People who may tolerate insulting an individual will clearly not respond with the same degree when it is against the Prophet. Since Turkey has such a sensitivity, publishing a cartoon that aims to insult the Prophet is a clear incitement."

Police secured the premises of Cumhuriyet after threats were made against the newspaper.