Istanbul: “Israel Baby Killer” were the words on a banner hung across the street from clutches of Turkish men of various ages drinking tea in a central Istanbul café when the news came in on the evening of 17 October.
Initial reports of “hundreds” of Palestinians killed in what appeared to be the latest attack on a Gaza hospital created an uproar in the streets of Turkey, which has long been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Residents of Turkey’s most cosmopolitan city called the incident a “genocide” and “massacre” as emotional reporting and videos of the dead flooded social media.
Israel's national security headquarters issued a statement almost immediately after the news, warning that “all Israelis staying in Turkey must leave as soon as possible”, due to the “continued aggravation of terrorist threats against Israelis abroad.”
A few hours later, thousands of Turkish citizens and others from the city’s sizeable Arab diaspora had gathered in front of a building housing the Israeli consulate across town. Fireworks were shot into the air near the building, vaguely reminiscent of some of the sounds of war elsewhere.
Some carried Palestinian flags and simply mulled around, while others tried angrily to push against a line of Turkish riot police protecting the building.
Political parties in the Turkish Parliament signed a joint declaration only a few hours after the news, condemning Israel over reports that it had targeted hospitals in Gaza.
The Istanbul governor’s office issued a statement the following day on the protest in front of the Israeli consulate, noting that 80,000 protesters had taken part, one protestor had died of a heart attack, and 63 people had been injured, including 43 police officers.
It added that five people had been arrested for attempting to breach a security barrier and called on protesters to “refrain from actions that can cause irreparable damage”.