Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday blasted Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu as a "tyrant" who "massacred" Palestinian children as the two leaders exchanged insults in their latest spat.
Erdogan was responding to comments from Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday slamming the Turkish leader as a "dictator" and "a joke", after a day of tit-for-tat exchanges between officials in both countries.
Turkey and Israel have tense relations and Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, is a vocal critic of Israeli policies. The two leaders have exchanged barbs in the past over Gaza.
"Hey Netanyahu, behave yourself. You are a tyrant, you are a tyrant who massacred seven-year-old Palestinian children," Erdogan told a rally of supporters in the Turkish capital Ankara.
Erdogan also refered to clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in Jerusalem, denouncing Israeli security forces for entering a "holy place".
"Do not provoke. Look, we have not oppressed any of the Jews in this country. We have not done anything you did to any synagogues here. Don't provoke us. We will not fall into this trap."
The latest exchange came after Netanyahu had called Israel the nation-state of "the Jewish people" only, not all its citizens. That prompted Turkey on Tuesday to accuse the Israeli leader of "blatant racism".
Netanyahu struck back in a statement from his office early Wednesday.
"Turkey's dictator Erdogan attacks Israel's democracy while Turkish journalists and judges fill his prisons," it read. "What a joke!"
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin was swift to respond on Twitter, accusing Netanyahu of attacking Erdogan "for exposing him" after the Israeli premier's "racist remarks" towards Arabs and Muslims.
"The apartheid state he leads occupies Palestinian lands, kills women & children & imprisons Palestinians in their own land," he wrote.
The two countries in 2016 ended a six-year rift triggered by the Israeli storming of a Gaza-bound ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead and led to a downgrading of diplomatic ties.
Netanyahu has been accused by critics of demonising Israeli Arabs, who make up some 17.5 percent of the population, in a bid to boost right-wing turnout for April polls.
Source: National News Agency