Hamas leaders present in Turkey during the Palestinian militant group’s attack on Israel on 7 October have been politely asked to leave the country because of certain statements and actions that have displeased Ankara, according to Al-Monitor.
Writing about Turkey’s delicate approach to the ongoing war in Gaza, Turkish journalist Fehim Taştekin said that Turkey was trying to find a balance between its support for the Palestinian cause and its ongoing efforts to normalise relations with Israel.
The Hamas attack and Israel’s subsequent declaration of war came after a recent meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which Erdoğan invited Netanyahu to visit Ankara, signalling a possible thaw in relations after more than a decade of hostility.
While Erdoğan has expressed concern over mounting casualties in Gaza from Israeli bombardments, and criticised US President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Israel, he has exercised restraint in his language towards Israel, in contrast to his previous outbursts.
Taştekin said that Ankara had politely asked the head of Hamas’s political bureau Ismail Haniyeh and his associates, who were in Istanbul when the Hamas attack on Israeli towns took place, to leave Turkey, because the Turkish government did not want to appear to be supporting the group after its attack on Israeli civilians. Ankara reportedly made the decision after a video circulated on social media showed Haniyeh and other Hamas members prostrating themselves in a ‘prayer of thanksgiving’ while watching news of the Hamas attack on television.
Turkey’s close association with Hamas has put it in a sensitive position with Western nations, particularly the United States, potentially putting pressure on Turkey to sever its ties with the Palestinian group. However, Turkey sees itself as a potential mediator in the conflict and, at Erdoğan’s request, Turkish intelligence and foreign ministry officials have held talks with Hamas, though reportedly they have not received a positive response to their offers of mediation.
Regarding mediation efforts, a Palestinian source told Al-Monitor that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups in Gaza are currently unwilling to engage in any mediation. The groups are insisting that the bombing of Gaza must stop before any negotiations can take place.
There is considerable public support in Turkey for the Palestinian cause, with numerous pro-Palestinian demonstrations attracting thousands of Turkish citizens in recent days.
Turkey has had relations with Israel for most of Israel’s history. However, relations soured in 2010 when Israeli forces killed ten Turkish activists during a raid on ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in international waters. Israel later offered compensation for the raid, and relations were partially restored in 2016. However, tensions flared again when Israeli troops killed 17 Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border, leading to spats between Erdoğan and Netanyahu.