updated 10/14/2009 9:22:07 PM ET 2009-10-15T01:22:07

Israel's foreign minister has ordered ministry officials to summon Turkey's ambassador in Israel and protest to him over a Turkish TV series that reportedly portrays Israeli soldiers murdering children, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

It was the latest twist in worsening relations between the two Mediterranean countries, which have traditionally had close defense ties.

A statement quoted Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as saying that the program, screened by Turkish state TV, constituted incitement against Israel "at the most grave level."

Israel TV screened a clip Wednesday evening it said was from the series, showing an actor dressed as an Israeli soldier taking aim at a smiling young girl and shooting her in the chest from point-blank range.

Israeli army radio said the show, about the tribulations of a Palestinian family, was aired Tuesday on Turkey's TRT One channel and also depicted troops killing a Palestinian newborn delivered after its mother went into labor at an Israeli roadblock.

"A series like this, which has not the slightest connection with reality, which presents Israeli soldiers as the murderers of innocent children, would not be appropriate for broadcast even in an enemy country and certainly not in a state which maintains diplomatic relations with Israel," Lieberman said in the statement.

Muslim Turkey's ties with Israel have deteriorated since Israel's January offensive against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip, which killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Last week Ankara canceled an international military exercise in which Israeli pilots were to have taken part.

Earlier Wednesday Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak sought to downplay the rift and said the cancellation did not signal a long-term deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations.

He called the Turkish decision part of "the ups and downs" of a relationship and stressed that the two countries' ties are "long-standing, important and strategic in nature."

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