On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said the Palestinian militant group Hamas was not a terrorist organization but a liberation group fighting to protect Palestinian lands and people.
Speaking to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, Erdogan also called for an immediate ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian forces and said Muslim countries must act together to secure lasting peace in the region.
“Hamas is not a terrorist organization,” said Erdogan per Reuters, using an Arabic word denoting those who fight for their faith. “It is a liberation group, ‘mujahideen’ waging a battle to protect its lands and people.”
Erdogan also slammed Western powers that have voiced support for Israel’s retaliation against Hamas, saying “Western tears shed for Israel are a manifestation of fraud.”
He called on “non-regional actors” to stop “adding fuel to the fire” in support of Israel’s attacks, which he referred to as “mental illness,” and called on world powers to pressure Israel to halt attacks on Gaza.
He also requested that the “Rafah border gate [remain] open for humanitarian aid.”
Turkey has condemned civilian deaths that resulted from Hamas’ October 7th rampage in southern Israel but also urged Israel to respond in a contained manner.
It has since strongly condemned Israel’s heavy bombardment of Gaza, which is controlled by the militant Islamist group. The Turkish Presidency has offered to mediate in the conflict and send several shipments of humanitarian aid.
Turkey’s ties with Hamas
Turkey, which has had unstable diplomatic relations with Israel for years, has often hosted Hamas leaders, and Turkish President Recep Erdogan has been in close contact with the Hamas leadership since the start of the war, the Times of Israel reports.
Turkish authorities have allowed the terror group to operate from an office in Istanbul for over a decade, insisting that it only hosts the group’s political wing. However, in 2020, Israel provided Turkish intelligence with evidence that members of Hamas’ military wing operate in the office.
According to a report in the Washington-based Al-Monitor, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other top officials were in Istanbul on October 7th.
In the hours following the onslaught, a video was released showing Haniyeh watching scenes of the terrorist assault on Al Jazeera and “prostrating in gratitude,” surrounded by his deputy Saleh al-Arouri and a number of Hamas officials.
The head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, his deputy, Saleh Al-Arouri, and other members of the Hamas leadership "prostrate in gratitude" for the ongoing attacks against Israel. pic.twitter.com/ACuajF4PTf
— Gianluca Pacchiani (@GLucaPacchiani) October 7, 2023
Al-Monitor claimed the video was filmed in Istanbul, though the footage does not contain any indication to corroborate the claim.
The report said Turkey had expelled Haniyeh and his entourage, as it does not want to be perceived as a protector of Hamas, after details emerged regarding the brutality of the terrorist attack.