The Tightening Turkey-Hamas Connection
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently invited Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Istanbul, where the two discussed “the difficult humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in light of the ongoing siege, and the necessary measures to end it,” the terror group posted on its website. The two leaders also discussed “the issue of Jerusalem, especially including the imminent dangers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Turkey’s role in supporting the Palestinian people.”
After the meeting, Erdoğan said he would “keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine,” and Hamas praised Turkey for its “positions vis-a-vis the Palestinian people and its just cause.”
The meeting renewed concerns that Erdoğan is letting Hamas plot attacks against Israel from Turkish territory. A few days after the meeting, the London-based newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that senior Hamas operatives, in direct consultation with Turkish intelligence agents, have been using Turkey’s largest city to direct operations in Jerusalem and the West Bank, including an assassination attempt on Nir Barkat when he was mayor of Jerusalem.
Barkat, now a member of Knesset for the Likud Party, said he has asked U.S. Ambassador David Friedman to have the United States apply sanctions on Turkey as it has done with Iran. “It is not the first time that I have heard about a [terror] cell like this, but this time we understand that the Turks were actually helping them,” Barkat said.
Another reported target of a Hamas plot hatched in Turkey involved then-MK and Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick, who was shot and seriously injured in a 2014 assassination attempt by Mutaz Hijazi, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, a key rival of Hamas. Glick told Israel’s Army Radio that Hamas and Erdoğan have “put a finger on the center point of the world, on Jerusalem, which for them symbolizes control of the Middle East.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has accused the Turkish government of “turning a blind eye” to Hamas’s use of Turkey as a base to “direct” terrorist activity and of channeling financial resources to Hamas and using Hamas to gather intelligence on the Jewish state. Erdoğan and Hamas are both associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a reconciliation deal reached between Turkey and Israel in December 2015, Ankara agreed to stop Hamas from planning attacks from its soil. Israeli officials claim Erdoğan has failed to respect the agreement. “It’s extremely worrying,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said. “You have terrorist activities against Israel that are basically orchestrated from a country that is a member of NATO. Yet they have agreed not to allow any terrorist activity on their soil.”
In a recent speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, consisting of 57 Muslim states, Erdoğan claimed Ankara is the “lone voice” standing up for Palestinians today. He falsely asserted that “innocent girls, fathers, mothers, elderly people, children and young people are openly executed and mercilessly murdered by Israel” and that the “situation in Jerusalem and Palestine” is becoming worse every day. “We will never stop defending the rights of the Palestinians and standing in solidarity with all the oppressed.”
Retired Turkish Gen. Adnan Tanriverdi, now a chief advisor to Erdoğan, has called for the creation of a Joint Islamic Army “for Palestine from outside Palestine.” He described Israel as “the outpost of the new Crusade and a dagger in the heart of Islam” and called the Jewish state “the eyes, ears and fist of the Christian World.”
Tanriverdi said a Palestinian army, equipped with tanks and other heavy weaponry, along with a united Army of Islam, would defeat Israel in 10 days.
Col. Richard Kemp, former chief of British forces in Afghanistan, said NATO, the UN, European Union, and United States have an obligation to pressure Erdoğan to expel Hamas from Turkey and cease all backing for it.