Turkey’s Erdogan says Hamas is not terrorist organisation, cancels trip to Israel

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, in his strongest comments yet on the Gaza conflict, said on Wednesday the Palestinian militant group Hamas was not a terrorist organisation but a liberation group fighting to protect Palestinian lands.

NATO member Turkey condemned the civilian deaths caused by Hamas’s Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel, but also urged Israeli forces to act with restraint in their response. Ankara has strongly criticised Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

“Hamas is not a terrorist organisation, it is a liberation group, ‘mujahideen’ waging a battle to protect its lands and people,” he told lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, using an Arabic word denoting those who fight for their faith.

Unlike many of its NATO allies and the European Union, Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation and hosts members of the group on its territory. Ankara backs a two-state solution to the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Erdogan also slammed Western powers for supporting Israel’s bombing of Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire, the unhindered entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and for Muslim countries to work together to stop the violence.

“The perpetrators of the massacre and the destruction taking place in Gaza are those providing unlimited support for Israel,” Erdogan said. “Israel’s attacks on Gaza, for both itself and those supporting them, amount to murder and mental illness.”

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