Report: Hamas chiefs were asked to leave Turkey after October 7 attacks

Ankara seeking to avoid being perceived as a supporter of the terror group, Turkish journalist claims, after enabling it for years

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas terrorist movement chief Ismail Haniyeh, prior to their meeting in Istanbul, February 1, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool/ File)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas terrorist movement chief Ismail Haniyeh, prior to their meeting in Istanbul, February 1, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool/ File)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other top officials were “politely sent away” by Turkish authorities after details began emerging of the terror group’s barbarities against Israeli civilians on October 7, a recent report claims.

According to a Sunday article in the Washington-based Al-Monitor, Haniyeh was in Istanbul on October 7, contradicting previous reports that the terror chief was in his office in Doha, Qatar.

In the hours following the onslaught, a video was released showing Haniyeh watching scenes of the terrorist assault on Al Jazeera and “prostrating in gratitude,” surrounded by his deputy Saleh al-Arouri and a number of Hamas officials.

Al-Monitor claimed the video was filmed in Istanbul, though the footage does not contain any indication to corroborate the claim.

The report said Turkey had expelled Haniyeh and his entourage, as it does not want to be perceived as a protector of Hamas, after details emerged regarding the brutality of the terrorists who killed over 1,400 Israelis on October 7, the vast majority of them civilians, and abducted over 220 others.

If the terror leader was indeed in Istanbul, he must have left for his base in Qatar within a week of the attack, since he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Doha on October 15, according to Iran’s state-run media.

Like most leaders of the terror group, Haniyeh has lived away from the Gaza Strip for years, splitting his time between Qatar and Turkey. He and his 13 children are known to have enriched themselves from illegal trade via tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip over the years, and to have invested the accumulated fortune in real estate properties in both Gaza and Turkey.

Turkey, which has had wobbly diplomatic relations with Israel for years, has often hosted Hamas leaders, and Turkish President Recep Erdogan has been in close contact with the Hamas leadership since the start of the war. Turkish authorities have allowed the terror group to operate from an office in Istanbul for over a decade, insisting that it only hosts the group’s political wing. However, 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.

From that office, Hamas terrorists have allegedly planned terror attacks against Israel and devised ways to transfer funds to the terror group’s activists in the West Bank, according to past reports by Israel Hayom and the JCPA (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs).

In an interview with Turkey’s Haberturk TV last week, Qatar-based former Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said he has “great respect for Turkey,” adding that “Turkey should say ‘stop'” to Israel, Al-Monitor reported. The former leader has repeatedly met with Erdogan over the years, and in an address to members of Erdogan’s party in 2014, he said he hoped to “liberate Palestine and Jerusalem” with them.

From his end, Erdogan has not officially condemned Hamas’s brutal slaughter of Israeli civilians on October 7, and instead accused Israel of carrying out operations against Hamas in Gaza that “amount to genocide.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, left, prior to their meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, August 12, 2015. (AP/ Press Presidency Press Service/ File)

Erdogan has often assailed Israel and its policies during times of conflict, and the two nations were at odds for many years under his leadership. The past year had seen a warming of ties between Israel and Turkey after years of animosity between the two countries’ leaders, but these seem to be in danger once more.

War between Israel and Hamas began on October 7 when the terror group abruptly launched a ground, air, and sea assault on the Jewish state. Under the cover of a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at towns and cities across the country, over 2,500 gunmen crossed the border and rampaged murderously through southern areas. They slaughtered over 1,400 people — the vast majority of them civilians, of all ages.

Some 200,000 Israelis have been displaced from both the south and the north, which has also come under rocket barrages from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.

Israel has responded with intensive strikes on Hamas targets while vowing to destroy the terror group and remove it from power in Gaza, where it has ruled since 2007. Gaza civilians residing in the north of the Strip have been told to evacuate, and the IDF has massed troops ahead of an expected ground incursion.

Israel has repeated its calls for people to leave northern Gaza, including by dropping leaflets from the air. It estimates that 700,000 have already fled. But hundreds of thousands remain and Hamas has urged them to stay.

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