Turkish, Israeli name-calling covers 'tyrant' to 'dictator'

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The latest quarrel between the leaders of Turkey and Israel continued for a second day Wednesday as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "thief" and a "tyrant."

Speaking at an election campaign rally, Erdogan called Netanyahu "the thief who heads Israel" in a reference to corruption allegations against the long-seated Israeli prime minister.

Netanyahu fired back on Twitter, describing the Turkish president as a "dictator who sends tens of thousands of political opponents to prison, commits genocide against the Kurds, and occupies Northern Cyprus."

Israel and Turkey were once close allies, but diplomatic relations between the two countries have chilled in the past decade. Under Erdogan, Turkey has become a vocal critic of Israeli policies dealing with Palestinians, sparking frequent verbal feuds with Netanyahu.

At Wednesday's campaign rally, Erdogan criticized Israel's closure of a Jerusalem holy site Tuesday after Palestinian suspects hurled a firebomb at a police station.

There were no injuries in the incident, but police shuttered the site, which Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims the Noble Sanctuary. The site reopened Wednesday without incident.

"You are a tyrant," Erdogan said, addressing Netanyahu at the rally. "You are a tyrant who slaughters 7-year-old Palestinian kids."

The Israeli prime minister responded in his tweet.

"It's best that he doesn't get involved with Jerusalem, our capital for 3,000 years," Netanyahu quipped. "Erdogan can only learn from us how to respect every religion and protect human rights."

The last war of words started Tuesday when Erdogan's spokesman called Netanyahu a racist for saying Israel was the nation-state only of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu struck back, calling Erdogan a dictator and criticizing the Turkey for imprisoning journalists.