Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lambasted Israel in Beirut on Thursday for a variety of alleged war crimes, on a day when he faced angry demonstrations by hundreds of Lebanese Armenians highlighting Turkey’s slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.
“Does [Israel] think it can enter Lebanon with the most modern aircraft and tanks to kill women and children, and destroy schools and hospitals, and then expect us to remain silent?” Erdogan asked on the final day of his two-day visit to Lebanon.
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“Does it think it can use the most modern weapons, phosphorus munitions and cluster bombs to kill children in Gaza and then expect us to remain silent? We will not be silent, and we will support justice by all means available to us,” he declared.
One Israeli official said Erdogan’s latest anti-Israel diatribe “was a particularly lame diversion from the issue that was brought to his door in Lebanon by Armenian demonstrators.”
The official also said Israel took note that Erdogan, in his speech, “found not one single word to at least distance himself from killing of Israeli women and children [by Hizbullah].”
The website of the Istanbul-based daily Hurriyet quoted Erdogan as having said on Wednesday during a speech at a Turkmen village near Beirut that “we will go on to raise our voice against those massacring innocent people and children. We will call a killer a killer when needed.”
The Turkish prime minister met during his visit with officials in the north and south of the country, including Turkish troops stationed with UNIFIL in the South.
In Beirut on Thursday, hundreds of Lebanese of Armenian descent clashed
with army troops in the capital’s Martyr’s Square during a protest
against Erdogan’s visit.
When demonstrators tore up a large poster of Erdogan and pelted troops
with rocks, security forces responded by beating up a number of them.
There were no reports of serious injuries. At the time, Erdogan was inaugurating a hospital in the southern port city of Sidon.
Lebanon has around 150,000 Armenians – nearly 4 percent of its
population – who, because of the Armenian genocide, harbor deep
animosity toward Turkey.AP contributed to this report.