Erdoğan praises Hamas as ‘group of mujahideen defending their lands,’ calls West’s support for Israel a ‘state of mental illness’

FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed that Hamas isn’t a terror group but a patriotic organization defending its people and vowed not to visit Israel as Turkey further distances itself from the European Union.

“Israel can view Hamas as a terrorist organization along with the West. The West owes you a lot. But Turkey does not owe you anything,” Erdoğan said during a gathering of his Justice and Development’s (AK) parliamentary party.

“Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a group of mujahideen defending their lands,” he added in relation to the slaughtering of over 1,300 Israeli civilians in a surprise attack on Oct. 7.

The president received a standing ovation from his party’s lawmakers for his remarks.

Erdoğan further announced that he was canceling a planned visit to Israel over what he described as its “inhumane” retaliatory attack against Gaza.

“We had a project to go to Israel, but it was canceled, we will not go,” he said.

“Israel’s attacks on Gaza are a situation that attests to both murder and a state of mental illness, both for those who carry them out and for those who support them,” he added.

Erdoğan’s comments place further distance between the Turkish position and that of the European Union, within which Hamas has been declared a proscribed terrorist organization, and risk further exacerbating tensions in an already unstable region.

The Turkish leader, re-elected for a third term back in May, sought the support this week of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Palestinian cause as fears continue to grow of an even more categorical split with Israel and its allies on one side, and the Islamic world and the West’s adversaries on the other.

In a statement on the call between the Turkish and Russian presidents, the Kremlin confirmed that Putin had told Erdoğan that Moscow and Ankara largely agree on the Israel-Palestinian issue, Reuters reported.

The Turkish government has engaged in rallying calls from the Islamic world to denounce Israel’s activities in Gaza, with Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan criticizing Israel’s attempts to root out Hamas extremists in Gaza during a recent visit to Qatar.

“Targeting our Palestinian brothers, including children, patients, and the elderly, even in schools, hospitals, and mosques, is a crime against humanity,” he said in a joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

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