ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Turkey frees seven hostages taken by pro-Gaza gunman at factory near Istanbul

Suspect held people inside production plant owned by US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble; police raided the building when he took a bathroom break

Turkish anti-riot police officers block the street where a plant owned by US giant Procter & Gamble is located at Gebze District in Kocaeli near Istanbul on February 1, 2024, after an assailant took an undisclosed number of people hostage. (Ozan Kose/AFP)
Turkish anti-riot police officers block the street where a plant owned by US giant Procter & Gamble is located at Gebze District in Kocaeli near Istanbul on February 1, 2024, after an assailant took an undisclosed number of people hostage. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish police on Thursday released seven workers taken hostage by a pro-Palestinian gunman at a plant near Istanbul owned by US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble in protest at the war in Gaza.

Local officials said police staged a raid nearly nine hours into the standoff when the lone gunman took a bathroom break.

The man was detained unharmed, local governor Seddar Yavuz told reporters.

Earlier, P&G had said in a statement that “Earlier today, we evacuated our Gebze facility and are working with local authorities to resolve an urgent security situation.

“The safety of P&G people and our partners is our top priority,” the Cincinnati, Ohio-based company added.

Photos and videos of the assailant shared online by one of the hostages and verified by AFP showed a man — his face hidden by a Palestinian scarf — holding a gun with what appeared to be a suicide vest strapped to his chest.

He was standing next to a drawing of the Palestinian flag and the words “the door will be opened for Gaza” painted on the wall in red.

Asked to confirm media reports of the attack being linked to Gaza, a police spokesman said “it is true” that this was the motive for the attack.

Footage from the scene showed police setting up a cordon around the sprawling plant, and fire trucks and ambulances rushing in.

Relatives of hostages watch on their smartphones a live broadcast made by the assailant who took an undisclosed number of people hostage inside a plant owned by US giant Procter & Gamble located at Gebze District in Kocaeli near Istanbul on February 1, 2024. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

Erdogan’s criticism of Israel

The war in Gaza was triggered when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst through the Gaza border into Israel on October 7, launching assaults on more than 20 communities. Some 1,200 people were slaughtered, including 360 at an outdoor music festival, thousands were injured and 253 people were dragged to Gaza as hostages.

Of those taken hostage, 132 still remain in Gaza, not all of them alive. Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Following the deadliest attack in Israel’s history, the country vowed to eradicate Hamas from the Palestinian enclave and launched an aerial operation and subsequent ground invasion.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has said that more than 27,000 people have been killed since the start of the Israeli offensive, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 10,000 Hamas operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart in Ankara, on January 24, 2024. (Adem Altan/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as one of the Muslim world’s harshest critics of Israel for its campaign in Gaza, which the UN estimates has displaced around 85% percent of the Strip’s 2.3 million residents.

He has branded Israel a “terrorist state” and compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.

Erdogan has also accused the United States of supporting “genocide” in Gaza due to its backing of Israel and the military aid it has provided.

Erdogan’s comments reflect widespread anger across the predominantly Muslim but officially secular country at the United States for its traditional support for Israel.

Hundreds of protesters stormed a southeastern Turkish air base used by US and British forces on the eve of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Ankara in November.

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