Erdogan says 1,000 Hamas members treated in Turkey hospitals

Throughout the war in Gaza, Erdogan has strongly criticised Israel [Getty/file photo]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech on Monday that hundreds of Hamas fighters are currently being treated in the country’s hospitals, although this was later denied by a Ankara official.

Erdogan made the comments in a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Ankara, at a joint press conference aimed to improve ties between the countries.

In his speech, Erdogan also said that Hamas is not a “terror organisation” but a “resistance movement” defending Palestinians and their land.

“If you call Hamas a ‘terrorist organisation,’ this would sadden us,” Erdogan said at the conference after PM Mitsotakis had referred to Hamas as such.

“We don’t deem Hamas a terrorist organisation. More than 1,000 members of Hamas are under treatment in hospitals across our country.”

A Turkish official later said that the president “misspoke” and meant to refer to Palestinians generally from the Gaza Strip that were being treated in Turkey, Reuters reported.

Turkey has been staunchly pro-Gaza and pro-Palestinian since Israel launched a war on the territory over seven months ago, killing at least 35,173 Palestinians as of Tuesday.

Erdogan has criticised Israel on multiple occasions for atrocities committed throughout its indiscriminate attack on the Gaza Strip.

Israel has targeted residential buildings, hospitals, schools and other key infrastructure, totally devastating the Palestinian territory.

Turkey recognised the state of Israel in 1949, but Erdogan and his Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) shifted the country to a pro-Palestinian policy after coming to power in 2003.

In November last year, the Turkish president called Israel a “terror state” saying it was “committing war crimes and violating international law in Gaza” and called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

In December, Erdogan said that there was “no difference” between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolf Hitler.

Amid the war, dozens of Palestinians were flown to Turkey to receive medical treatment for wounds inflicted by Israeli bombing, as well as cancer.

In late December, three Palestinians who were being treated in Ankara were buried in Turkey, after they succumbed to their injuries and illnesses.

Recently, Turkey said it would halt all imports and exports to Israel, citing the country’s ongoing military operation in Gaza.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said that Turkey has decided to submit its declaration of official intervention in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

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