Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Wednesday criticized Ankara over Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s historic visit to Turkey, calling it cause for “concern.”

Herzog on Wednesday became the first Israeli leader to pay an official visit to Turkey in 14 years.

Careful not to name Turkey or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in its statement, Hamas said it was “following with great concern” visits by Herzog and other Israeli officials “to a number of Arab and Islamic countries in the region.” Several senior Hamas leaders are based in Turkey.

Hamas “regrets such visits to Arab and Islamic countries, which constitute a strategic depth for the Palestinian people and its just national issue. We call on [Arab countries] not to allow the Zionist entity an opportunity to infiltrate the region and undermine the interests of the peoples in the region.”

Gaza’s rulers further stressed that they “adamantly reject any contact with the occupation that violates our dignity and defiles and Judaizes Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and continues its siege on the Gaza Strip.”

The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is the second-largest terrorist group in Gaza, said that any Arab attempt to forge diplomatic ties with Israel “betrays Jerusalem and Palestine.”

“This visit comes during the aggressive Zionist escalation against our people in Jerusalem, the enemy’s plans to Judaize the holy sites, and settler raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This visit is an achievement for the enemy in its fight against the Palestinian people,” the PIJ’s statement said.

The visit also “ignores the blood of the martyrs who fell to break the siege on the Gaza Strip and goes against the Turkish people’s support of the Palestinian people,” the terrorist group said, referring to the deadly 2010 Israeli raid on the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla.”

Relations between Israel and Turkey, once close regional allies, crumbled following the raid. In June 2016, the two countries said they would normalize relations, a move driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual fears over security risks in the Middle East, but diplomatic ties remain frosty, at best. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, once Herzog took office in July 2021, Erdoğan, who was one of the first world leaders to offer his congratulations to the newly elected president, signaled a desire to pursue rapprochement with Israel.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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