A Hamas delegation led by its chief, Ismail Haniyeh, met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Saturday and spoke to him about the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the terror group said in a report posted on its official website.
Haniyeh had been in Turkey since the previous Sunday following talks with the Egyptian General Intelligence Services. The trip marked the first time he has traveled beyond Gaza and Egypt since he became Hamas’s top leader in May 2017.
“The Hamas delegation spoke about the difficult humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in light of the ongoing siege and the necessary measures to end [it],” the report stated, adding that it praised Turkey for its “positions vis-a-vis the Palestinian people and its just cause.”
Israel maintains many restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel officials argue that the limitations seek to prevent terror groups in the coastal enclave from importing weapons or the means to build them.
For the most of the last decade, Egypt also imposed heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods. More recently, however, Egyptian authorities have permitted many Palestinians in Gaza to travel through the Rafah crossing and import some goods by way of its borders.
Fifty-three percent of Palestinians in Gaza live in poverty, a June 2018 United Nations report said. Eighty percent depend on international aid, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the main international organization that provides health, education and other services to Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 when it ousted the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory.
The Hamas delegation and Erdogan discussed “the issue of Jerusalem, especially including the imminent dangers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Turkey’s role in supporting the Palestinian people,” the report added.
Hamas has consistently condemned Israel for allowing Jews to visit the Temple Mount, a site revered by followers of Judaism and Islam. Muslims refer to it as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
— Turkish Presidency (@trpresidency) December 14, 2019
The terror group has also accused Israel of attempting to “Judaize” the Temple Mount, which is largely administered by the Waqf, a Jordanian-supported institution that manages Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
Jews are barred from praying at the Temple Mount under longstanding arrangements between Israel and Muslim authorities known as the “status quo.” But in recent years Israeli religious nationalists have stepped up visits to the site and made efforts to pray there.
The Palestinians view such visits as provocations, and have expressed concerns that Israel intends to take over the site or partition it. The Israeli government, however, has repeatedly said it has no intention of changing the arrangements.
The Turkish Presidency’s Twitter account confirmed that Haniyeh and Erdogan met and released a photo of the two at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul.
Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV reported Sunday that Haniyeh will be attending the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Malaysia on Wednesday.
The conference will “delve into seeking new solutions for problems affecting the Islamic world,” the Malay Mail, a Malaysian daily, reported.
Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Erdogan are “among the notable Islamic leaders expected to join the summit,” the Malay Mail report added.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.