Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday branded Israel’s air raids in Syria “unacceptable” but again called on the international community to act over killings by regime forces.
“No excuse can justify this operation,” Erdogan told ruling party lawmakers after Israel’s weekend strikes on military sites in the war-torn country sent regional tensions soaring.
Erdogan said the raids — reportedly targeting Iranian weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah group — were a “golden opportunity” for his one-time ally President Bashar al-Assad to cover up massacres of opponents.
“Assad is trying to cover up what happened at Banias by using the Israeli raids as a pretext,” said the Turkish premier, referring to a crackdown by Assad’s troops and militiamen in the Mediterranean city.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the weekend that the bodies of at least 62 murdered residents had been found in a Sunni neighbourhood of the city, after at least 50 civilians were killed in a nearby village.
Erdogan said he was appalled by the photographs of children murdered by the regime and blasted the international community for its failure to act.
“I wonder how long you will turn a blind eye to this massacre,” he said. “Damn your international policies!”
He called on the UN Security Council to “urgently convene” over the Banias killings, which have sent residents fleeing.
On Sunday, Erdogan called the Syrian president a “butcher,” in his harshest attack in recent months.
Ankara cut contact with Damascus after its calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which is now in its third year and has killed more than 70,000 people, went unheeded.
Turkey has sided with the rebels fighting to topple Assad’s regime, taken in around 400,000 refugees as well as army defectors and repeatedly called on the international community to act on the unfolding crisis.