Erdoğan has his eyes set on Jerusalem once more

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is looking to restore the Ottoman Empire and become responsible for Islam’s third holiest city of Jerusalem as part of his dream of reviving the Muslim caliphate, Israel Hayom newspaper said on Monday.

The Turkish leader sees Jerusalem, which is of utmost importance for Muslims after Mecca and Medina, as being “under occupation” and maintains the city and should be part of the voluntary Islamic pilgrimage known as “Umrah,” it said.

Over the weekend, Turkish media reported that the country’s top religious body launched a department serving tourists visiting Jerusalem. The Religious Affairs Directorate’s Department of Umrah and Jerusalem visits will be in charge of tours for voluntary pilgrimage and the Israeli capital, which Erdoğan has called the  “red line’’ of Muslims.  

The directorate has prepared a special guide for Jerusalem tours with history about the city and significant sites, including Hebron, Bethlehem and Jaffa.

The Turkish president began calling for a “conquest” of the city through a mass infusion of Muslim tourists to Israel as early as 2017, the article said, when former U.S. President Donald Trump sparked fury by recognising the city as Israel's capital, prompting fury from Erdoğan.

Videos posted on social media by pro-Turkish elements have shown Muslims desperately attempting to defend al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, it said, followed by images of ships, planes and vehicles draped in the Turkish and Palestinian flags headed for the mosque.

Erdoğan’s latest move to register Turkish pilgrims within the framework of the Umrah, it said, is a continuation of his  “war of liberation” on behalf of Al-Aqsa.