Erdogan urges Palestinian unity after meeting Hamas chief


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Palestinians to unite amid Israel's war in Gaza following hours-long talks with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul on Saturday, his office said.

Erdogan has failed to establish a foothold as a mediator in the Gaza conflict that has roiled the region, with the Hamas-run Palestinian territory bracing for a new Israeli offensive and a reported Israeli attack on Iran.

Erdogan said Palestinian unity was "vital" following the talks at the Dolmabahce palace on the banks of the Bosphorus strait, which Turkish media reports said lasted more than two and a half hours.

"The strongest response to Israel and the path to victory lie in unity and integrity," Erdogan said, according to a Turkish presidency statement.

Hamas -- designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Israel -- is a rival of the Fatah faction that rules the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.

As fears of a wider regional war grow, Erdogan said recent events between Iran and Israel should not allow Israel to "gain ground and that it is important to act in a way that keeps attention on Gaza".

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemned the meeting, writing on X, formerly Twitter: "Muslim Brotherhood alliance: rape, murder, desecration of corpses and the burning of babies. Erdogan, shame on you!"

Hamas was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987.

In response, Oncu Keceli, spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry wrote on X: "It is the Israeli authorities who should be ashamed. They have massacred nearly 35,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children."

- Close ties with Haniyeh -

With Qatar saying it will reassess its role as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, Erdogan sent Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan to Doha on Wednesday in a new sign that he wants a role.

"I will continue as long as God gives me my life, to defend the Palestinian struggle and to be the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people," the president said Wednesday when he announced Haniyeh's visit.

Hamas has had an office in Turkey since 2011, when Turkey helped secure the agreement for the group to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Erdogan has maintained links with Haniyeh, who has been a frequent visitor.

Fidan was a past head of Turkish intelligence and the country provided information and passports to Hamas officials, including Haniyeh, according to Sinan Ciddi, a Turkey specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

This has never been confirmed by Turkish authorities, however.

- Erdogan slams Israel -

If Qatar withdraws from mediation efforts, Turkey could seek to increase its profile based on its Hamas links.

Fidan on Saturday held talks with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, with both men emphasising the need to deliver more humanitarian aid to devastated Gaza where the threat of famine looms.

Erdogan also met with Shoukry late Saturday, the Turkish Presidency said in a statement, where he said it was "essential for Islamic countries to work together" to "prevent the entire region from falling into a spiral of conflict".

Turkey is one of Gaza's main humanitarian aid partners, sending 45,000 tonnes of supplies and medicine in the region.

Israel has said it is preparing an offensive against the Gazan city of Rafah and the reported Israeli attack on the Iranian province of Isfahan, following Iran's direct attack on Israel, has only clouded hopes of a peace breakthrough.

But Erdogan can only expect a "very limited" role because of his outspoken condemnation of Israel and its actions in Gaza, according to Ciddi.

Last year, the Turkish leader likened the tactics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and called Israel a "terrorist state" because of its offensive against Hamas after the militant group's October 7 attacks on Israel.

Ciddi said Erdogan would not be welcome in Israel and at most might be able to pass messages between Palestinian and Israel negotiators.

The unprecedented Hamas attacks that sparked the Gaza war allegedly resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people in southern Israel according to Israeli official figures.

Militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed 34,049 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

Comments 4
Thumb 21 April 2024, 22:35

In the hushed whispers of history, there's a moment etched in the annals of Palestine's struggle, where Ismail Haniyé, much like Jesus of Nazareth, extends a hand of collaboration to a trusted partner who will ultimately betray him. In this poignant exchange, amidst the tumult of politics and the weight of oppression, parallels emerge between the Hamas leader and the figure of Jesus in their unwavering commitment to their people's cause, their willingness to forgive, and their embodiment of hope against all odds.

Thumb 21 April 2024, 22:35

Just as Jesus reached out to Judas Iscariot, Ismail Haniyé extends a hand to someone close, a confidant, a symbol of trust in the pursuit of common goals. However, in the echoes of betrayal, there's a reflection of the betrayal Jesus faced in the garden of Gethsemane. The handshake, laden with symbolism, becomes a testament to the complexities of leadership, the burden of trust, and the frailty of human loyalty.

Yet, amidst the shadows of betrayal, both figures stand as symbols of resilience and compassion. Like Jesus, Ismail Haniyé's message transcends the treachery of individuals, resonating with the enduring spirit of their people. Their legacy, though marred by betrayal, is one of unwavering faith in the possibility of reconciliation and the transformative power of forgiveness.

Thumb 21 April 2024, 22:35

In this fleeting moment of handshake and betrayal, the Hamas leader and Jesus converge not only in their shared fate but also in their profound message of love, forgiveness, and the unyielding pursuit of justice. And though Ismail Haniyé's path may end in tragedy, his spirit will linger as a reminder of the sacrifices made in the struggle for Palestinian freedom, inspiring future generations to carry on the fight against oppression and injustice.

Thumb chrisrushlau 22 April 2024, 19:41

"Foundation for the Defense of Democracy", FDD, is a registered lobbyist. Wikipedia excerpt: "When it was announced in October 2021 that President Joe Biden's top diplomat for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was stepping down, Bill Roggio of the FDD said, 'It is about time he stopped stealing money from the US government. He shoulders a large amount of the blame for shilling for the Taliban.'" Wikipedia says Ciddi was born in Turkey and educated in the United Kingdom. He's apparently also on the faculty of the Marine Corps University. Associate Professor of National Security Studies Command and Staff College Areas of Expertise Comparative Politics Democratization Political Ideologies Country of Expertise: Turkey Secondary Interests: Middle East Politics, European and Eurasian Politics I wonder what he says about Zionism.