Erdogan says Netanyahu’s ‘genocidal methods would make Hitler jealous’

Turkish leader accuses Israel of turning Gaza into ‘open air prison,’ claims Hamas would lay down arms for 2-state solution, contrary to comments by senior official in terror group

A composite photo showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, May 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90); Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, May 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A composite photo showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, May 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90); Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, May 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Adolf Hitler would be “jealous” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what he called Israel’s “genocidal methods” in the Gaza Strip, doubling down on his past comparisons of the Israeli premier to the Nazi dictator

Erdogan accused Israel of targeting civilians, hospitals, and aid convoys, purposely starving Palestinians in the enclave, and turning Gaza into an “open-air prison,” in an interview (Greek) with Greece’s Kathimerini daily.

“Netanyahu has reached a level that would make Hitler jealous with his genocidal methods,” he said.

It is not the first time Erdogan has compared Netanyahu to the Nazi leader. In December he said the Israeli premier was worse than Hitler, drawing countercharges that he himself was guilty of genocide. In March, he claimed that “Netanyahu and his administration, with their crimes against humanity in Gaza, are writing their names next to Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, like today’s Nazis.”

Erdogan and Netanyahu have a long history of public attacks on each other, which have ebbed and flowed alongside Israel and Turkey’s on-again, off-again alliance. The attacks had halted as Jerusalem and Ankara ties warmed, but the détente has seemingly fallen apart over the Israel-Hamas war.

Earlier this month, Ankara announced it would stop all exports and imports to and from Israel, in a highly impactful move against Jerusalem over the war against Hamas.

File: An anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian protest rally in Istanbul, Turkey, February 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Erdogan also claimed in his interview Sunday that Hamas’s actions were a natural response to Israel’s control of the Palestinian territories, and that the terror group only wanted to “take back the Palestinian lands occupied by Israel and restore their state.”

“If there was a sovereign, independent, geographically unified state of Palestine, within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, would there be a need for resistance? In addition, Hamas has also stated that if this happens, it will disband its armed wing and continue as a political party,” Erdogan claimed.

In a 2017 bid to curry international favor, Hamas revised its charter, claiming the group’s struggle was not against Jews, but rather against “the Zionist project.” But Hamas’s political program still officially “rejects any alternative to the full liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea” — referring to the area reaching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including Israel proper.

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya told the Associated Press last month that the terror group would lay down its arms and convert into a political party if an independent Palestinian state is established along the pre-1967 borders. However, in separate comments published by the London-based Arabic paper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, he indicated this would only be a temporary stance and that the Palestinians retain their “historic right to all Palestinian lands.”

Erdogan claimed Sunday that Hamas had recently agreed to a truce deal, “but Israel does not want a ceasefire, citing its desire to occupy all of Gaza.”

Erdogan appeared to be referring to Hamas’s claim on Monday to have accepted a truce agreement with Israel, though it later emerged that the proposal it said had come from Egyptian and Qatari mediators included several elements fundamentally different from what Israel had agreed to. Jerusalem swiftly rejected the proposal for falling short of its “vital demands.”

File: Khalil al-Hayya speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey, April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Turkish president has been one of the most virulent critics of Israel since the start of the war in Gaza, which began on October 7 when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into Israel by air, land and sea, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping another 252, amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying the terror group’s military and governance capabilities. Health authorities in Gaza say over 34,000 people have been killed in the war, though figures issued by the Hamas-run health ministry cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 15,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7, while 272 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border.

Erdogan has not officially condemned Hamas’s slaughter of Israeli civilians.

His government maintains strong ties with Hamas, and Turkey has hosted some of its leaders. While the country insisted that it only hosted the group’s political wing, in 2020, Israel provided Turkish intelligence with evidence that members of Hamas’s military wing operate in the office, under the supervision of Beirut-based Saleh al-Arouri, who was killed in an alleged Israeli strike in Lebanon in January.

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