Istanbul’s streets were brimming on Sunday as around 1,000 pro-Palestinian Turks demonstrated against Israel’s latest round of airstrikes on Gaza, which have left over 100 Palestinians dead.
Flags emblazoned with the recognizable Palestinian colors of red, black, white, and green fluttered throughout the crowd, as demonstrators gathered at Istiklal Street, shouting slogans against Israel.
Attendees represented various activist groups throughout Turkey, including leftist groups, non-governmental organizations and football fans of Turkey’s Fenerbahce and Besiktas sport teams.
But a significant number of demonstrators included Palestinians living in Turkey who called on the international community to boycott Israel academically, culturally, as well as economically, to pressure the Jewish state to stop its deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday the death toll in Israel’s air raids rose to 166 people, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including children, women and the disabled. Over 1,000 Palestinians were injured during the last seven days of Israel’s offensive.
In a separate demonstration in Besiktas, another pro- Palestinian group held a protest march to the Israeli consulate. The protesters chanted anti-Israel slogans, shouting “God damn Israel,” and “We are with you people of Gaza.”
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul on Friday condemned Israel’s plans for a ground operation in Gaza and urged to stop its air strikes. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also called for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza, appealing the international community to take action against Israel.
Turkey has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Palestinian struggle for statehood and an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Ties between Turkey and Israel were strained following the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in 2010, when Israeli soldiers stormed the Turkish ship carrying activists and supplies on board as it approached the Gaza coast, causing the deaths of nine Turkish citizens.