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Israel-Palestine: Hamas a ‘liberation movement’, Erdogan says in speech slamming Israel

Turkish president says Israel's attacks on Gaza demonstrate an aim to commit ‘premeditated crimes against humanity’
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City 19 September 2023 (Reuters)
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City 19 September 2023 (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Israel and its backers in a fiery speech on Wednesday, urging world leaders to stop the attack against Palestinians in Gaza. 

Speaking in parliament, Erdogan said Turkey “owes nothing” to Israel and announced he would no longer visit the country as previously planned. 

He also said Hamas was not a terrorist group, as many of Turkey's Nato allies have proscribed the movement, labelling them instead as a liberation movement fighting to “protect their land and citizens”.

Israel's brutal bombing campaign on Gaza has been ongoing since 7 October, when Hamas launched a massive attack on southern Israel.

Israeli strikes have killed at least 6,546 people, including more than 2,704 children and 1,584 women, according to Palestinian officials. An additional 1,600 people, including 900 children, are missing and presumed to be trapped under rubble.

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According to Israeli officials, around 1,400 people were killed in Israel during the Hamas-led attack, the majority of them believed to be civilians.

At least another 220 people have been taken as prisoners in Gaza, including soldiers and civilians.

"Approximately half of those killed in Israel's attacks on Gaza are children. Even these figures demonstrate that the aim is an atrocity to commit premeditated crimes against humanity," Erdogan said in his speech. 

"Israel's attacks on Gaza are a situation that attests to both murder and a state of mental illness, both for those who carry them out and for those who support them," he added.

In the first days of the war, the Turkish president had been more measured in his remarks regarding the hostilities, condemning all attacks on civilians, but urging Israel to react with restraint.

However, as the bombing campaign on Gaza increased in intensity, leading the daily death toll to grow exponentially, he became more vocal against Israel's actions.

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Erdogan called for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations for the release of hostages and said Muslim countries must work together to secure a lasting peace in the region.

"We will continue to shout the truth and take political and, if necessary, military measures," Erdogan said, without elaborating.

The president also slammed Western powers for their "unlimited" support to Israel, saying it has led to the massacres in Gaza. 

Erdogan further reiterated Turkey's proposal of a guarantorship system to resolve the conflict, saying that Turkey is ready to be one of the guarantors for the Palestinian side, with a humanitarian, political, and military presence.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini described Erdogan's comments as "grave and disgusting and did not help with de-escalation".

Salvini said in a note that he would suggest to Italy's foreign minister to send a formal protest and summon the Turkish ambassador to Italy.

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