Turkish Prime Minister: ‘Israel Is A Terrorist State’

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Israeli artillery shells attack a target in the Gaza Strip on Nov. 19, 2012 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Israeli artillery shells attack a target in the Gaza Strip on Nov. 19, 2012 on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. (credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A top Turkish official has claimed that Israel is committing acts of terrorism by bombing Hamas targets in Gaza.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the Eurasian Islamic Council conference in Istanbul that the Jewish state is systematically mass-killing Muslims.

“Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza,” Erdogan said, according to Reuters. “For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts.”

The conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated last Wednesday after an Israeli airstrike killed the terror group’s military commander, Ahmed Jabari.

CBS News reports 87 Palestinians, 50 of them civilians, have been killed in the six-day conflict so far.

Hamas is demanding Israel stop its five-year blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to get a cease-fire deal done.

The White House says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Barack Obama Friday to provide an update on the situation. Netanyahu expressed appreciation to Obama and the American people for U.S. investment in the Iron Dome rocket and mortar defense system, which has been used to defend Israel against rocket attacks from Gaza, saving many Israeli lives, the White House said.

Obama reiterated U.S. support for Israel’s right to self-defense and discussed possible ways to scale back the conflict, the White House said. It did not offer specifics.

Separately, Obama called Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Friday and praised Egypt’s efforts to ease tensions in the region, the White House said. Obama expressed hope that Egypt’s efforts would be successful, officials said.

In both calls, Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives and underscored the importance of resolving the situation as quickly as possible.

Obama also spoke with the Israeli and Egyptian leaders last Wednesday.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday during Panetta’s flight from Bangkok to San Francisco as he returned to the U.S. from an Asia-Pacific tour, a senior Pentagon official said. In their second phone conversation this week, Barak briefed Panetta on the situation with Gaza and the prospects for de-escalation of the violence.

Militant groups have staged rocket attacks against Israel, which has responded by assassinating the military chief of the ruling Hamas militant group and conducting dozens of airstrikes on suspected rocket-launching sites and other Hamas targets in Gaza.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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