Jerusalem to stay Palestine’s capital: Turkish vice president

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ANKARA/ISTANBUL

Turkey’s vice president on Thursday marked Eid al-Fitr, a three-day Muslim festival celebrated after the fasting month of Ramadan, following prayers at a mosque in the capital Ankara.

Speaking to reporters after the prayer at Bestepe Mosque, Fuat Oktay denounced Israeli aggression on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem and Palestinians, underlining that the city “is and will remain the capital of Palestine.”

This year’s celebrations were dampened due to a nationwide lockdown enforced to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Urging compliance with the rules and measures against the virus, Oktay said Turkey aims to overcome the outbreak via speedy vaccination.

He also marked the Eid holiday for Turkish Cypriots in a separate message.

On recent escalated violence between Israel and Palestinians, Oktay said: “We have Palestinian martyrs and brothers and sisters wailing under Israel’s reckless attacks and persecution.”

“You drop bombs on vulnerable people. Then you go and make accusations claiming self-defense without feeling shame … This is a shame upon humanity,” he added.

Asserting that condemnations and UN resolutions had so far proven fruitless, he stressed that countries “trying to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel and those trying to force Jerusalem’s acceptance as the capital of Israel are complicit in this persecution, and everyone not taking a clear stance against it is also part to it.”

Separately, Turkey’s Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop also condemned Israel’s violent attacks against civilians.

“The world, especially Islamic countries, must take a common stance against [Israel’s] attitudes, occupation and policies of cruelty that are against international law,” Sentop said following Eid prayers at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque on Thursday.

Thousands of worshippers joined the prayer led by Ali Erbas, head of Turkey’s top religious body Diyanet.

In the past, the Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years and 86 years as a museum, but most of its existence — 1453 to 1934, nearly 500 years — it spent as a mosque, a status it resumed last year.

In 1985, the Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Besides being a mosque, the Hagia Sophia is also among Turkey’s top tourist destinations and remains open for domestic and foreign visitors.

“It is not possible to establish peace in the whole world, especially in the Middle East, unless peace and tranquility is achieved in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Sentop added.

On Israel’s claims of its “right to self-defense,” Sentop said: “Whether what is going on is a matter of defense is a separate matter. But, if Israel has the right to defend itself, then Palestine as a state and Palestinians have the right to defend themselves, too.”

Israel continues to target Gaza with heavy bombardment so far killing at least 83 Palestinians, including 17 children and seven women, according to health officials. At least 487 others have been injured, in addition to heavy damages to residential buildings across Gaza.

Tensions have been running high across the Palestinian territories after Israeli soldiers attacked last week Palestinians offering prayers inside Al-Aqsa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinians have been protesting against a recent Israeli court ruling ordering the eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem — despite attacks by Israeli soldiers.

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