Turkish player plants Palestinian flag on pitch

ISTANBUL - A Turkish football player planted a Palestinian flag in the middle of the pitch at a match on Tuesday, in an apparent protest against Israel's offensive in Gaza, Turkish broadcasters reported.

The Israeli military campaign, which ended in a January 18 truce, triggered protests in Turkey where there is widespread support for the Palestinians.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was given a hero's welcome on his return home last Friday after accusing Israel of "knowing very well how to kill" during a sharp exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum.

Sivasspor midfielder Ibrahim Dagasan placed the flag on the centre spot at a stadium in the central Turkish city of Sivas after his side beat Galatasaray in the quarter final of the Turkey Cup.

After he did so, some spectators chanted: "Damn Israel". Dagasan then raised a finger to his mouth, gesturing for them to be silent. One of Dagasan's team mates is the Israeli forward Pini Balili.

Turkey, a largely non-Arab Muslim country that belongs to NATO, has close military and commercial ties with Israel. It has also helped to negotiate a Hamas-led ceasefire that ended the rocket attacks that Israel said forced it to launch the incursion into Gaza in December.