Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of supporting Hamas, after Ankara recalled its ambassador from the Jewish state amid the ongoing conflict.
“The Turkish government’s decision to recall its ambassador while the State of Israel is in the midst of a war of self-defense imposed on it by a terrorist organization worse than ISIS is another step by the Turkish president that sides with the Hamas terrorist organization,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat.
“Hamas terrorists brutally massacred more than 1,400 people and kidnapped 240 to Gaza, among them babies, children, women and the elderly.
“Furthermore, Hamas terrorists use the population of Gaza as human shields and is preventing them from moving to safe areas, while stealing fuel, food and drinking water,” he continued.
“Hamas commits war crimes and crimes against humanity and is the real enemy of the Palestinian people,” added Haiat.
Earlier Saturday, Turkey said that envoy Sakir Ozkan Torunlar would return home “in view of the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Gaza caused by the continuing attacks by Israel against civilians, and Israel’s refusal [to accept] a ceasefire.”
Last week, Israel withdrew its ambassador from Ankara and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Jerusalem would reassess relations with Turkey due to Erdoğan’s pro-Hamas stance.
The move came after Erdoğan said at a mass rally in Istanbul that “Hamas is not a terrorist organization” but rather “a liberation group fighting to protect its lands.”
Days earlier, Erdoğan argued that Gaza’s terrorist rulers constituted “a group of mujahideen [‘jihadists’] defending their lands and people.”
After a long diplomatic cold spell, ties between Ankara and Jerusalem had warmed.
On Sept. 20, during a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly annual general debate in New York, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Erdoğan that “our ties are improving,” and the two leaders agreed to continue advancing bilateral relations.
Netanyahu was expected to visit Turkey before December, becoming the first Israeli premier to do so since 2008. Erdoğan planned to visit the Jewish state in return, his office announced late last month.
However, Erdoğan recently told lawmakers that he had dropped his planned trip to Jerusalem. “We had a project to go to Israel, but it was canceled; we will not go,” he said.
Erdoğan has long been a champion of the Palestinians, and his government harbors members of Hamas. Last year saw the 10th anniversary of the official establishment of Hamas’s offices in Istanbul.