THOUSANDS of Turks welcomed their prime minister home on Friday with chants of “Turkey is proud of you” after he publicly confronted the Israeli president over the bloody Gaza onslaught.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s intervention at the World Economic Forum in Davos also won praise in Gaza, where Turkish flags fluttered from a ruined mosque.
Mr Erdogan was greeted by a jubilant crowd of more than 5,000 supporters, many waving Turkish and Palestinian flags, who had flooded Istanbul’s airport when his plane from Davos touched down at about 2am.
The dispute about Israel’s offensive against Gaza took place at a panel discussion in Davos on Thursday. Israeli President Shimon Peres launched into a 25-minute defence of Tel Aviv’s attack on the coastal enclave, jabbing his finger repeatedly at Mr Erdogan.
“The tragedy of Gaza is not Israel. It is Hamas. They created a dictatorship, a very dangerous one,” he screamed.
After Mr Peres’s intervention had won applause, Mr Erdogan said: “I find it very sad that people applaud what you have said because many people have been killed.
“Mr Peres, you are older than me. Your voice is too loud,” he said, suggesting that his emotion betrayed a guilty conscience.
The session moderator cut Mr Erdogan off in mid-sentence, prompting the Turkish premier to walk out, declaring that he would never return to Davos.
In the Gaza refugee camp of Jebaliya, Turkish flags decorated the ruins of a local mosque that had been destroyed by Israeli air strikes. On the Egyptian side of the Gaza border, over two dozen lorries loaded with food, medicines and commercial goods remain stranded because Tel Aviv refuses to open the crossings.
The UN launched an emergency appeal on Thursday for $613 million (£440m) to help Palestinians rebuild, but UN officials on the ground warned that this would be useless if Israel continues to bar aid from entering Gaza.
John Ging, the top UN official in Gaza, said: “The ordinary people here in Gaza are not getting enough help and are not getting it quickly enough,” demanding that the border crossings be opened.
“There are thousands of tons of assistance generously donated, sitting in Egypt, Jordan and also in the ports in Israel,” Mr Ging reported, adding: “That aid should be right here, right now, helping the people who need it.”