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Israel’s envoy to Turkey says too early to talk mediation, calls for end to Hamas presence: report

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Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, Irit Lillian, said Sunday it was too early to talk about mediation offers between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas, adding that the attacks showed Hamas should not have a presence in Turkey or elsewhere, Reuters reported.

On Saturday Hamas had carried out an attack on Israel for which Israel vowed “powerful revenge.” Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis were killed in what Israel calls a war.

After Turkey said it was in contact with all parties and ready to de-escalate, Lillian said in an online briefing with journalists that Israel’s priority was responding to the attack.

“Mediation comes at a different point of time. Right now, we are unfortunately counting the dead, we are trying to heal the wounded, we don’t even know … the number of … citizens abducted,” she said.

“We want to see all the abducted people coming home and we want quiet and calmness coming back to Israel and the region,” she added. “After that, we can talk about mediation and who are going to be the players in this mediation.”

The conflict comes at a time when Turkey, which has supported the Palestinians in the past, hosted members of Hamas and backed a two-state solution to the conflict, is trying to improve relations with Israel after years of animosity.

Ankara does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Hamas presence in Turkey

Asked about the presence of Hamas members in Turkey, Lillian said a senior member of the Islamist group, Saleh al-Arouri, is sometimes seen at events in Turkey, adding that he should be tried for crimes against humanity.

“I think it just strengthens our point that Hamas should not have an office or any kind of activity, neither in Turkey nor anywhere else in the world,” she said. “There is no place for terrorists to direct or command acts from any country in the world.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the presence of Hamas representatives in Turkey.

On Sunday Turkish Parliament Speaker Numan Kurtulmus reiterated Ankara’s call for restraint, saying that Palestinians have long suffered injustice, particularly with regard to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which he described as a “red line.”

Lillian said Israel had expected more empathy from Turkey, which has suffered militant attacks for decades, but added that a “good, constructive” dialog between the two countries “the day after” would shed light on the fate of the rapprochement.

“I think it’s a little bit hard to say,” Lillian said when asked if relations would be affected, adding that some comments from Ankara were “surprising.”

“I think the relations of Israel and Turkey, which started a process of warm-up, should not be affected by yesterday’s attack and by the ongoing war against terrorism,” she added.

She also said the Israeli Embassy was in contact with Turkish authorities about threats and calls for demonstrations and violence.

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