JERUSALEM - Israel is killing innocent Palestinians indiscriminately and failing to contribute to the peace process, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview published Thursday.
In his latest broadside at his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon, Erdogan also compared the treatment of the Palestinians to that of the Jews during the Spanish inquisition when thousands were tortured and expelled from their homes.
"Jews were the victims at that time. Today, the Palestinians are the victims, and unfortunately the people of Israel are treating the Palestinians as they were treated 500 years ago," Erdogan told Israel's Haaretz daily.
"Bombing people - civilians - from helicopters, killing people without any considerations - children, women, the elderly - razing their buildings using bulldozers."
Relations between the Israel and its chief Muslim ally Turkey have plummeted in recent days after Erdogan described Israel's operations in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah as "state terror".
Israel's foreign ministry responded with an unprecedented statement calling Erdogan's comments "extremely regrettable".
"One could have expected that Turkey, which also fell prey to cruel terrorism, would show more understanding and solidarity," the ministry said.
Erdogan told Haaretz that he had no problem with the Israeli people, only its present right-wing government.
"When we look at relations on the level of the peoples, we cannot even conceive of any problems," he said.
"But at the level of the government, we are in favour of the peace process being regenerated, and the government of Israel has not contributed to our efforts to do so."