Turkey’s PM has received a hero’s welcome on his return to Istanbul after he stormed out of a debate about Gaza at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan had reacted angrily when he was refused the chance to respond to Israeli President Shimon Peres’ defence of the operation.
Thousands of people turned out in the city to greet Mr Erdogan’s plane.
He told them Mr Peres’ language and tone had been unacceptable, so he acted to stand up for Turkish honour.
“I only know that I have to protect the honour of Turkey and Turkish people,” said Mr Erdogan.
“I am not a chief of a tribe. I am the prime minister of Turkey. I have to do what I have to do.”
The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul said there had been huge anger in Turkey at Israel’s operation in Gaza and there now appears to be widespread support for Mr Erdogan’s actions in Davos.
Huge crowds were waiting at Istanbul airport in the early hours of the morning, with many people waving Turkish and Palestinian flags.
Correspondents said the crowds were shouting “Turkey is with you,” and that some were holding signs greeting Mr Erdogan as “a new world leader”.
“In Davos, all the world witnessed what has not been happening for many years,” said Istanbul resident Mustafa Mastar.
“This showed the power of Turks. It showed that Turks are standing on their feet in Europe, in the world.”
“Tonight I was really proud. I feel really happy,” said Mustafa Sahin, another person in the crowd.
During the debate on Thursday, Mr Erdogan had clashed with Mr Peres, whose voice had risen as he made an impassioned defence of Israel’s actions, jabbing his finger.
Mr Erdogan said Mr Peres had spoken so loudly to conceal his “guilt”.
He said many people had died in Gaza and he found it sad that anyone would applaud Mr Peres for defending Israel’s actions.
He then accused the moderator of not allowing him to speak and said he did not think he would return to Davos.
The Turkish PM stressed later that he had left the debate not because of his disagreements with Mr Peres but because he had been given much less time to speak than the Israeli leader.
He said he respected Mr Peres but that “what he says is not true”.
Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries to have dealings with Israel, but relations have been under strain since the Islamist-rooted AK Party was elected to power in 2002.
But Mr Erdogan stressed to the crowds in Istanbul that “our hard words are not directed towards the people of Israel, not directed at the Jews, but they are totally directed towards the government of Israel”.
He said no decision on Turkish-Israeli relations would be made “driven by momentary anger on such issues”.
More than 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis were killed during the three-week conflict in Gaza, which began on 27 December.