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Turkey's Erdogan rules out normalizing ties with Israel as long as Gaza offensive continues

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's president on Friday called on Israel to halt its offensive on the Gaza Strip and not to carry out a ground incursion, while the prime minister said there can be no normalizing of Turkish-Israeli ties as long as Israel's actions continue.

"I would like to remind Israel that (a ground operation) would lead to dangerous developments and sow the seeds of hatred," President Abdullah Gul said on his way out of a mosque following Friday prayers.

"Such an escalation could lead to chaos in our region," he said.

The escalating violence between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza comes at a time when Turkey and Israel have been working toward improving ties that were soured after Israeli commandos stormed a pro-Palestinian aid ship in 2010, killing eight Turks and one Turkish-American.

Israel apologized to Turkey for the deaths and agreed to pay compensation under a U.S.-brokered arrangement in 2013. Turkish officials said in March the sides were close to reaching a compensation deal that would lead to a restoration of ties.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Friday that cannot happen at the moment.

"We cannot look positively at a process of normalization while bombs are raining on our (Palestinian) brothers," Erdogan said at a meeting where he unveiled his policy aims if elected president. "We cannot be on the side of the oppressor."

Israel's military has carried out more than 1,000 strikes against Gaza targets in four days of fighting that have killed at least 98 people, including dozens of civilians. Hamas militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, including into the country's two largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which were intercepted by its rocket-defense system.

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