Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called off a planned visit to Israel over its “inhumane” war in Gaza, saying relations between the two states would not improve.
“We had a project to go to Israel, but it was cancelled; we will not go,” he told governing party lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday as he lambasted Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza and defended Hamas.
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Erdogan’s biting remarks extend a deterioration in ties between Turkey and Israel, which have had a rocky, back-and-forth relationship for years.
Once tight regional allies, Turkey froze links with Israel in 2010, after Israeli military forces carried out a raid on a Turkish ship heading to Gaza with aid supplies, killing 10 civilians.
Relations ‘might have been different’
Erdogan’s tirade appeared set to put relations back in the deep freeze once more after recent signs suggesting ties were building back up.
Erdogan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in person for the first time last month at a UN summit in New York. There, the two leaders opened the door to potential cooperation in areas such as energy, technology, and cybersecurity.
However, as Israeli bombs rain on Gaza for a third week, killing more than 6,500 people and wrecking much of the territory’s infrastructure, the Turkish leader is again pulling few punches.
“Of course, we had good intentions, but [Netanyahu] abused them,” said Erdogan. “If he had continued with good intentions, our relations might have been different, but now, unfortunately, this will not happen either.”
Erdogan, who has led Turkey for two decades, is a vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause. He has directed fierce criticism at Israel since a deadly hospital blast in the besieged Gaza Strip on October 17.
“The international community is not rising to the challenge in the face of the Israeli regime’s unlawful and unrestrained attacks against civilians,” Erdogan said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the people of Gaza are suffering from “collective punishment”.
In his Wednesday address to parliament, the Turkish president also praised Hamas as “liberators” who are fighting to “protect their lands and people”.
Hamas fighters broke out of the besieged Gaza Strip on October 7 and attacked Israelis, including many civilians, killing at least 1,400 people and taking more than 220 captives, according to Israeli officials.
Erdogan is expected to attend a mass pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul on Saturday organised by the governing Justice and Development Party.