'I wish the wounded Israeli tourists were dead': Turkish official tweets after Istiklal bombing
Turkish police push people away just after an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on March 19, 2016. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)
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An official from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP Party tweeted that she “wished the Israelis” who were said to be wounded in Saturday’s Istanbul suicide blast were dead.
Irem Aktas made the provocative tweet immediately after the attack.
Turkish sources said that Aktas is the head of the party’s media relations and women’s outreach department.
The tweet was erased afterward, and officials are now trying to determine whether the Twitter account was a fake.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed diplomats in the Foreign Ministry to contact their counterparts in Ankara and demand an official condemnation of Aktas' tweet if it is proven to be authentic.
The Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that it was checking into the matter with Turkish government officials.
“If the tweet was indeed made, then it was an ugly, shocking statement and we expect an apology and a total repudiation of these remarks,” diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-language sister publication Ma’ariv.
The AKP, otherwise known as the Justice and Development Party, is an Islamist-leaning movement which swept into power under Erdogan’s leadership in 2002.
It has been the dominant force in Turkish politics, pulling the country toward a more religious orientation despite its secular, Kamalist character.
Erdogan and his party have been particularly vocal in their hostility toward Israel and their support for Hamas.
Relations between Turkey and Israel broke off following the Israeli commando raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla that sought to break through the blockade of the Palestinian coastal territory ruled by Islamist Hamas.
In recent months, however, there has been talk of a rapprochement between the two erstwhile strategic allies.
Last month, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that a representative appointed by Turkey's Defense Ministry has been sent to Israel in order to procure Israeli-made weapons and aircraft equipment as a condition for the return to normalized relations between the two countries.
According to Al-Jarida, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz sent a special envoy Tuesday to meet with Israel's security echelon in order to negotiate financial terms concerning weapons sales.
Israel in turn has demanded to know whether the weapons were intended to attack Kurdish rebels positioned on the Turkish-Syrian border, according to the report.
The Turkish government made clear that the weapons sales, including the purchasing of unmanned aerial vehicles, was part of a wider framework agreement in which the two countries would normalize relations, according to the Al-Jarida report.
Israel has yet to respond to the Turkish request, waiting to see if Ankara was still committed to honoring previous agreements to buy gas from the Jewish state. In turn, Turkey has yet to respond to Israeli inquiries concerning the use of UAV's against the Kurds.
In response to reports that Turkey and Israel were close to reaching an agreement in returning to normalized relations, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said earlier this week that it was difficult to proceed in negotiations between the nations if Turkey continues to support the terrorist organizations Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
"I am not sure if we can arrive to an agreement" if they continue funding these extremist organizations, Ya'alon said. "They must comply with the terms of our agreement so that we can overcome these obstacles," he added.
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