ISTANBUL: Turkey on Monday declared three days of national mourning for the Palestinian victims of Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, denouncing the assault as a "massacre".
"We condemn Israel's massacre of the Palestinian people," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters in Ankara in televised comments after a cabinet meeting as the Palestinian death toll topped 500.
"In a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people, three days of mourning have been declared starting from tomorrow (Tuesday)."
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought in the last days to portray himself as the leading global defender of the Palestinian cause, slamming Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip as a "genocide" of the Palestinians.
He has also angered Israel and also its ally the United States by bluntly comparing the mentality of some in the Jewish State to Adolf Hitler.
"Turkey has maintained a principled stand against Israel's aggression. It has stood by the righteous, not by the powerful," said Arinc.
"We are backing the truce talks, but Israel should stop arbitrary practices that can be considered as mass retribution and realise that the national security can only be restored through fair peace."
Turkey has diplomatic ties with Israel but relations were downgraded in the wake of the deadly 2010 Israeli commando raid on a Turkish activist ship on its way to the Gaza Strip.
At least 556 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli operation on the Gaza Strip.
Twenty-five Israeli soldiers have lost their lives in the fighting.
The announcement of such an extended period of national mourning for events outside Turkey's borders is highly unusual.
Turkey also declared three days national mourning for the mining disaster in Soma in May this year that killed 301.