Turkey marks its centenary as a post-Ottoman republic on Sunday with somewhat muted celebrations held under the shadow of Israel's escalating war with Hamas militants in Gaza.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be front and centre of day-long events that both honour the secular republic's founder and play up the achievement of the Islamic-rooted party running Turkey since 2002.

Erdogan and World War I-era military commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk have become the seminal figures of the modern Turkish state.

Ataturk is lionised across Turkish society for driving out invading forces and building a brand new nation out of the fallen Ottoman Empire's ruins in the wake of World War I.

Turkey was formed as a Western-facing nation that stripped religion from its state institutions and tried to forge a modern new identity out its myriad ethnic groups.


It eventually became a proud member of the US-led NATO defence alliance and a beacon of democratic hopes in the Middle East.

But Ataturk's social and geopolitical transformation of the overwhelmingly Muslim nation created divisions that weigh on Turkish politics to this day.

Erdogan tapped into these as he led his conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power over the leftist Republican People's Party (CHP) formed by Ataturk.

He has spent much of the past decade testing the limits of Turkey's secular traditions as well as its ties with the West.

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Turkish President Erdogan is also attending since his country is a "dialogue partner" with the bloc, whose full members include ex-Soviet Central Asian states, India, China, Russia and Iran.

These competing forces will be on full display as Erdogan starts the day by paying respects to Ataturk -- and ends it by overseeing celebrations of Turkey's more recent achievements while he was prime minister and president.

- Palestinian cause -

Sunday's celebrations have been partially eclipsed by Erdogan's increasingly fierce attacks against Israel over its response to the October 7 Hamas attacks.

The militants killed 1,400 people and took 220 hostages in a surprise raid that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the worst "since the Holocaust".


Israel has retaliated with ferocious air strikes and an unfolding ground offensive that the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says has claimed more than 8,000 lives.

Turkish state television has also scrapped the broadcast of concerts and other festivities because of the "alarming human tragedy in Gaza".

Erdogan's lifelong defence of Palestinian rights has turned him into a hero across large parts of the Muslim world.

He announced that 1.5 million people had come out for a pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul on Saturday that ended up drowning out national television coverage of the centenary.

Erdogan accused the Israel government of behaving like a "war criminal" and trying to "eradicate" Palestinians.

"Israel, you are an occupier," Erdogan declared.

His remarks prompted Israel to announce the withdrawal of all diplomatic staff for a "re-evaluation" of relations.

- Turbulent spell -

The emerging diplomatic crisis further pulled attention away from Turkey's birthday party and onto Erdogan's handling of global affairs.

Turkey has suffered a turbulent spell of relations with Western allies since Erdogan survived a failed coup attempt in 2016 that he blamed on a US-based Muslim preacher.


Istanbul's Kadir Has University lecturer Soli Ozel saw Saturday's pro-Palestinian rally as part of Erdogan's tacit effort to undermine Ataturk's secular vision.

"Couldn't (this rally) have waited until next week? The centenary only comes around once in a century," Ozel said in an interview.

But one survey suggested that Erdogan's comments play to his Islamic conservative core of supporters and not the public at large.

The Metropoll survey showed just 11.3 percent of the respondents saying they "back Hamas".

But 34.5 percent said Turkey should stay "neutral" and 26.4 percent said it should mediate.

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