Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will hold a large rally in İstanbul on Oct. 28 in support of Palestine in the wake of the growing number of civilian deaths in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza in ongoing Israeli airstrikes, Turkish media outlets reported.
The “Grand Jerusalem Rally” will be held at the now-closed Atatürk Airport.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his election ally, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), will attend the rally in which a large number of people are expected to take part.
Although it has been more than two weeks since Israel began pounding Gaza in retaliation for an unprecedented attack by the Hamas militant group on Oct. 7, which claimed the lives of at least 1,400 people in Israel, this will be the first time that the AKP is organizing such a demonstration in protest of the Israeli attacks on Gaza and deaths of more than 5,000 civilians in the area so far.
President Erdoğan, one of the strongest supporters of the Palestinian cause who has in the past made vitriolic outbursts against Israel due to its attacks on Palestinians, is showing a relatively moderate reaction to Israeli actions in Gaza.
He avoids from making any statements in favor of Hamas and has called on both sides to avoid harming civilians, which many say is aimed at avoiding a fresh fallout with Israel.
Yet there is growing anger among Turks, who have been taking to the streets across the country or meeting in front of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara or consulate building in İstanbul to protest Israel.
Last week, Israel temporarily called back all its diplomats from Turkey over security concerns in the wake of widespread anti-Israeli protests and sentiment in the country.
The Hamas-Israeli conflict came at a time when Turkey was just normalizing its relations with Israel after years-long tension.
Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008 following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Relations then froze in 2010 after the death of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, part of a Turkish flotilla trying to breach a blockade and carry aid into Gaza.
A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel’s over the killing of Palestinians during a conflict with Gaza.
Following months of diplomatic warming, Israel and Turkey announced in August 2022 the full restoration of relations and the return of ambassadors to both countries.