Congressmen Chris Pappas (NH-01) and Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) led a bipartisan group of 45 lawmakers in asking the U.S. Department of State to hold Turkey accountable for its role in supporting and facilitating the operations of Hamas.
“The longstanding political, logistical, and financial support provided by Turkey and President Erdogan to Hamas is well-known and a matter of grave concern,” wrote the lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said the Palestinian militant group was not a terrorist organization but a liberation group fighting to protect Palestinian lands and people.
“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.”
Turkey’s support for Hamas “extends beyond rhetoric”
The lawmakers drew attention to the fact that “Turkey’s support for Hamas extends beyond rhetoric, a matter that has not received adequate attention from the United States. For over a decade, President Erdogan has made Turkey a sanctuary for Hamas, with experts describing it as ‘the second-largest Hamas base after Gaza,’” and that Hamas’ “Istanbul office has functioned as a crucial hub for strengthening Hamas’s capacity to launch attacks against Israel.”
They are calling for Turkey to “be held to the same standard as other allies when it comes to accountability for enabling such operations within its territory.”
The lawmakers are also requesting that the U.S Department of State demand the Turkish government formally designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, take steps to stop Hamas and any affiliated entities operating in Turkey including revoking their Turkish citizenship, confiscating their Turkish passports, and expelling Hamas officials from the country, and investigate whether any Turkish officials were involved in Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and report those findings to the U.S. Department of State.
The lawmaker’s call was supported by several US-based organizations, including the Middle East Forum.
Cliff Smith, Washington Project Director, said “For too long, the US has turned a blind eye to Turkey’s overt support of Hamas, essentially, because we let our desire for short-term regional stability to override confronting the problem.
“After the events of October 7th, we can safely say that was a misguided calculation. The result was a still growing number of innocents dead and massive regional instability. Our policy must change. The State Department needs to use whatever leverage it has at its disposal to change Turkish behavior toward Hamas.”
The full text of the letter can be found here