Reports: Longtime Hamas Ally Erdogan Negotiating for Jihadists’ Hostages

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Multiple Turkish news outlets reported on Wednesday that Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has denied that Hamas is a terrorist organization and met with its leadership as recently as July, is attempting to negotiate the liberation of hostages the jihadists took during an ongoing episode of mass murder of civilians in Israel that began on Saturday.

Erdogan has fielded calls with a large number of fellow world leaders – from neighbors such as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jordanian King Abdullah II to his counterparts in Germany and Algeria – in the past four days regarding the situation in Israel, where Hamas terrorists launched a brutal assault on Saturday, killing over 1,300 people, most of them civilians. Erdogan’s government has not plainly condemned Hamas for the attack, instead issuing vague demands for “dialogue” while accusing the government of Israel of acting like a terrorist organization.

Hamas terrorists launched the “al-Aqsa flood,” their indiscriminate attack on civilians in residential communities, on Saturday, the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret, the final day of the annual High Holy Day cycle. The jihadists opened fire on crowds at a music festival and butchered families in door-to-door assaults; evidence suggests they also burned infants alive. Some dead babies were found without their heads.

The terrorists also took hostages. As of Thursday, the Israeli government confirmed that 97 of the people still missing since Saturday are hostages of Hamas and believed to be in Gaza, though that number may be far higher.

“Turkey is carrying out negotiations regarding the civilian prisoners held by Hamas. Upon President Tayyip Erdogan’s orders, the relevant institutions are carrying out a process regarding the civilians held by Hamas,” an anonymous alleged Turkish official told the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday. The report followed the Turkish outlet Haberturk making similar claims. Another pro-Erdogan Turkish outlet, the Daily Sabah, reported that Erdogan was at the helm of an alleged “negotiation process” to liberate the hostages.

Turkish officials have not confirmed the negotiation process on the record. Erdogan himself has asserted a desire to mediate “dialogue” between Israel and the genocidal jihadists, however, in conversations with other world leaders. According to the Turkish state Anadolu news agency, Erdogan told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday that he was open to help mediate, and allegedly “emphasized that the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem within the 1967 borders would be crucial for a lasting solution to the issue.” The call to carve a state of “Palestine” out of Israeli territory is a core motivating demand of Hamas.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet also reported on Thursday that Erdogan repeatedly told world leaders in conversation in the past two days that he sought to “mediate and facilitate dialogue between the conflicting parties.”

Erdogan’s attempts to insert himself into the situation follow outrageous comments in which Erdogan accused the Israeli government, and not Hamas, of acting as a terrorist entity.

“The disproportionate and unscrupulous attacks on Gaza could bring Israel into an unexpected and undesirable place in the eyes of world public opinion,” Erdogan said on Wednesday, addressing his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“Bombing civilian settlements, deliberately killing civilians, blocking vehicles (that are) bringing humanitarian aid to the region, and trying to present all of these as skills can only be a reflex of a (terrorist) organization, not a state,” Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying. “Israel should not forget that if it acts like an organization, not as a state, it will eventually come to be seen like one.”

Anadolu reported Erdogan’s desire to be involved in the dispute but omitted any discussion of hostages. The state outlet framed the violence in Israel as a result of Israeli action, rather than the gruesome killings of upwards of 1,300 Israelis at the hands of Hamas: “In a dramatic escalation of Mideast tensions, Israeli forces have launched a sustained and forceful military campaign against the Gaza Strip, a response to a military offensive by the Palestinian group Hamas in Israeli territories.”

Erdogan has for years maintained a cozy relationship with Hamas, which controls Gaza. In a belligerent statement posted to Twitter in 2018, Erdogan boldly declared, “Hamas is not a terrorist organization.”

“It is a resistance movement that defends the Palestinian homeland against an occupying power,” Erdogan claimed at the time.

Erdogan most recently met with Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, in July, welcoming him to Ankara alongside the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Following the meeting, Hamas issued a statement asserting “resistance was the most efficient way to confront the [Israeli] occupation.”

Turkey has been a consistent source of funding and other support for Hamas jihadists, the Financial Times observed in 2020, on another occasion in which Erdogan hosted Hamas leaders.

“In the past decade, Turkey has funded hospitals, schools and economic projects both in the Gaza Strip, run by Hamas, and in the occupied West Bank, moves that have irked the Israeli government but been welcomed by Palestinians,” the Times reported, “who have long sought a champion unmoved by Israel’s anti-Iran posture and untamed by American foreign policy demands.”

In addition to his support for Hamas, Erdogan has a long history of offensive antisemitic statements, such as comparing “the Jews” generally to Nazi Germany and claiming that Israel controls “the world’s media.” In 2016, Erdogan cited Adolf Hitler’s Germany as an example of the kind of government restructuring he hoped to execute in Turkey. Following a dubious electoral win for Erdogan in 2018, Haniyeh, the Hamas chief, was among the first to congratulate him and promise to send a Hamas “delegation to Turkey.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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