Erdogan says Turkey ‘firmly’ backs terror group Hamas, compares Netanyahu to Hitler

Turkish president vows ‘no one can make us qualify Hamas as a terrorist organization,’ says his country will continue to ‘speak openly with Hamas leaders’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with the Ukrainian president at the Dolmabahce Presidential office in Istanbul on March 8, 2024. (Ozan Kose/AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with the Ukrainian president at the Dolmabahce Presidential office in Istanbul on March 8, 2024. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Ankara “firmly backs” Palestinian terror group Hamas amid its ongoing war with Israel in the Gaza Strip, triggered by its October 7 killing spree across southern Israel.

“No one can make us qualify Hamas as a terrorist organization,” he said in a speech in Istanbul. “Turkey is a country that speaks openly with Hamas leaders and firmly backs them.”

Hamas is listed as a terror organization by the US, Israel, the UK, the European Union, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

In October, Erdogan claimed that Hamas was “not a terrorist organization” but “a group of mujahideen defending their lands.” “Mujahideen” is an Arabic term for those engaged in jihad, or holy war.

On Saturday, 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.

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 after thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into Israel by air, land and sea, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping another 253, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Thousands demonstrate in Istanbul in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in Gaza enclave,January 1, 2024. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel responded with a wide-scale ground and air campaign that the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said has killed at least 30,878 people, mostly women and children. These figures 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 13,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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

Over the past five months, the Turkish Islamist leader has called Israel a “terrorist state” and accused it of conducting a “genocide” in Gaza. In December, Erdogan called Netanyahu “worse than Hitler,” said the systematic slaughter of six million Jews in the Holocaust was not as bad as Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, and likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Strip to that of Jews rounded up in concentration and death camps.

His government also 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.

In January, Erdogan’s foreign minister met the terror group’s Qatar-based leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Erdogan had been in the midst of an effort to warm ties with Israel in the months before the war, but has since sharply backtracked and returned to the same vitriolic attacks that characterized many of his previous years in power.

He and Netanyahu repeatedly aimed brickbats at each other in the years since a 2010 Israeli commando raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship, part of a blockade-busting flotilla, that left dead 10 Turkish activists who attacked IDF soldiers aboard the ship. In July 2014, Erdogan accused the Jewish state of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive” during a war with Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Ties later saw a moderate improvement, but both countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2018 amid violence in Gaza and the Trump administration’s relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem.

Facing hardening diplomatic isolation and economic woes, Erdogan began to publicly display an openness toward rapprochement in December 2020.

In August 2022, Israel and Turkey announced a full renewal of diplomatic ties.

In late September 2023, Erdogan met with Netanyahu in New York for their first known sit-down and the two enthusiastically discussed avenues of cooperation. President Isaac Herzog was hosted by Erdogan last March in Ankara — the first high-level Israeli visit since 2008 — and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met the Turkish leader in February 2023. Then-prime minister Yair Lapid met with Erdogan in New York during last year’s General Assembly.

Israel and Turkey again withdrew their ambassadors with the outbreak of the war, in Israel’s case as a safety measure.

Most Popular
read more: