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Gaza war tests fragile Israel-Turkey rapprochement as Erdogan ups rhetoric

Seen once as a champion for the Palestinians, Erdogan has lambasted the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza even as his government has tried to mend ties with Israel.
Turkish President and the leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during his party's group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, Turkiye on October 11, 2023. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP) (Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

ANKARA — As Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday shifted away from his initial moderate tone on the conflict between Israeli forces and the militant group Hamas, recent rapprochement between Ankara and the Jewish state appears to be increasingly fragile. 

Erdogan's latest statement on Wednesday accused Israel of "preventing people from accessing their most fundamental needs, by destroying the buildings in which civilians live with bombs." He described the latest actions in Gaza as "not a war, but a massacre." 

His remarks are a departure from the de-escalatory tone he struck in the first few days of the conflict, and a return to the image he built over the years as a champion for the Palestinian cause. Unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, Turkey does not recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization, and is known to have open channels with the group. 

Last July, Erdogan hosted a rare meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh in Turkey and in an effort to reconcile the two sides. 

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