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Erdogan: Hamas is a resistance group, 1,000+ members being treated in Turkey



Monday’s summit between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, heralded as a milestone in improving ties between the historically hostile nations, was marked instead by Erdogan’s spirited defense of Hamas during a live press conference that followed their meeting in Ankara and his disclosure that over 1,000 Hamas members were being treated in Turkey.

“There is a very important issue on which we disagree,” Erdogan told the audience. “I do not see Hamas as a terror organization."

Noting that Palestinian lands have been occupied since 1947, Erdogan said that “Hamas is a resistance group” that was “waging a struggle to protect” Palestinian lands. “If one calls Hamas that has lost 40,000 of its people a terrorist organization, this would be a heartless approach,” Erdogan added. He then dropped the bombshell: “As of this moment, I am following Hamas step by step, and there are more than 1,000 Hamas members who are all being treated in our hospitals. This is how we are doing things. … I cannot agree with your approach. This would be unfair,” Erdogan concluded. He did not explain how the Hamas militants had made their way to Turkey.

Media reports later cited Turkish officials claiming Erdogan misspoke regarding militants being treated in the country, but Ankara has yet to issue any official clarification.

Erdogan has sharply increased his verbal salvos against Israel since the March 31 local elections in which his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered heavy losses in part over what his pious base saw as the government’s wimpish stand on Gaza. Turkey has since formally scotched all trade with Israel, and on Sunday, Erdogan said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “reached a stage in genocide methods that even Hitler would envy.”

Erdogan’s latest comments came after Mitsotakis told the news conference that “particularly in the Middle East there are differences with Turkey.” Noting that Israel had entered Gaza after losing its citizens in a “terror” incident, and that Greece considered Hamas a “terrorist organization,” Mitsotakis said, “We know that Turkey sees things differently and has a different definition [of Hamas].” Mitsotakis continued, “nonetheless we agree on the need for the bloodshed to cease and for civilians in Gaza to be protected and that a land invasion of Rafah would be unacceptable.”

Mitsotakis handled Erdogan’s outburst skillfully, saying “let us agree to disagree.” But the exchange will have put something of a damper ahead of a state dinner that Erdogan is hosting in his Greek guest’s honor. It will not have helped that Mitsotakis rebuked Erdogan in his remarks for last week’s formal conversion of the Chora, an iconic Greek Orthodox Church, into a full-service mosque, calling it “unfortunate.” Erdogan retorted that “Turkey has set an example for all as a country that preserves its cultural heritage … the Chora Mosque is open to everybody with its new identity.”

A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Erdogan’s revelations about the Hamas members being treated in Turkey. Hay Eytan Yanarocak, a Turkey expert at Tel Aviv University, said, “There’s a big difference between treating wounded civilians and treating Hamas militants.”

“This is a new low,” Yanarocak said, and canceled out the “positive news” that junior Israeli diplomats were returning to Ankara following months after being withdrawn in October amid security concerns.

A State Department spokesperson, speaking on background, said, "We have been clear about our position on Hamas. With regard to Hamas, the United States designated Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997."

"As for President Erdogan's comments, we would refer you to his office," the spokesperson added.

Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/original...says-1000-members-being-treated#ixzz8agK9yupS