Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday ditched any semblance of neutrality in the Gaza conflict, saying that the Palestinian militant group Hamas was not a terrorist organization but “a patriotic liberation movement fighting to protect Palestinian lands and people.”
Speaking to lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan called Hamas “mujahideen,” the Arabic word for those fighting for their faith, eliciting thunderous applause in the chamber. “Israel is killing children. We will not allow the killing of children,” Erdogan vowed, calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. “We had a project to go to Israel, but it was cancelled. We will not go,” Erdogan added.
It didn’t take long for Israel to respond. Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat said his country “wholeheartedly rejects the Turkish President’s harsh words about the terrorist organization Hamas.” Haiat added in a post on X, “Hamas is a despicable terrorist organization worse than ISIS that brutally and intentionally murders babies, children, women and the elderly, takes civilians hostage and uses its own people as human shields.”
The Hamas-run Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip said at least 6,546 Palestinians, including 2,704 children, have been killed since Israel launched its air campaign against the enclave in response to the militant group's attack on southern Israel Oct. 7. The official death toll in Israel stands at about 1,400.