Turkish PM Equates Israel's Netanyahu to Paris Attackers

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara December 11, 2014. Umit Bektas/Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday compared his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to the Islamist militants who carried out attacks last week in Paris, saying both had committed crimes against humanity.

Davutoglu told a news conference that Israel's bombardment of Gaza and its storming in 2010 of a Turkish-led aid convoy to the Gaza Strip, in which 10 Turks were killed, were on a par with the Paris attacks, whose dead included shoppers at a Jewish supermarket.

The comments added to 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 criticizing Netanyahu's attendance, with other world leaders, at a solidarity march in Paris on Sunday.

Turkish leaders have condemned the attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, in which Islamist gunmen killed 12 people, but have also warned that rising Islamophobia in Europe risks inflaming unrest.

Davutoglu also attended the Paris 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," Davutoglu said.

The assault on the aid convoy ruptured ties between Turkey and Israel, which previously enjoyed close diplomatic and military relations. Trade links remain close.

Davutoglu also criticized the secular Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet for publishing excerpts of the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo, 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, prohibited by Islamic convention. A Turkish court subsequently ordered four websites that featured the image to be blocked.