Hundreds of people at a pro-Palestinian march in Turkey attempted to overrun an air base that houses US troops on Sunday, just hours before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to arrive in Ankara for discussions on Gaza.
Turkey, which has increased its condemnation of Israel as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens, advocates for a two-state solution while harboring members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Protests have erupted around the country since the Israel-Hamas war began.
Earlier this week, the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, an Islamist Turkish aid agency, organised a convoy to travel to the Incirlik air base in the Adana province in southern Turkey to protest Israeli attacks on Gaza and U.S. support for Israel.
Incirlik, which has been used to support the international coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also houses U.S. troops. IHH’s protest called for Incirlik to be closed.
Footage from the protests showed police firing tear gas and using water cannons to disperse crowds waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting slogans. Protesters toppled barricades and clashed with police in riot gear.
Protesters were also seen hurling plastic chairs, rocks, and other items at police, who fired smoke bombs at crowds. Scuffles broke out between the crowds and security forces
IHH President Bulent Yildirim addressed crowds in Adana and urged them to refrain from attacking police.
“Friends, it is wrong to throw rocks or do similar things because both the police and soldiers would want to go to Gaza and fight and they will go when the time comes,” he said.
“Our rage is huge. We cannot hold it in. But Turkey is doing what it can,” he added. IHH ended its rally earlier than planned due to the clashes with police.
The rally comes hours before Blinken is expected to arrive in Ankara for talks on Gaza with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan on Monday, and after repeated criticism by Ankara towards the West over support for Israel.