ANKARA, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Israel is a “terrorist state” that is committing war crimes and violating international law in Gaza, sharpening his repeated criticism of Israeli leaders and their Western backers.
Speaking two days before a planned visit to Germany to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Erdogan said Israel’s military campaign against the Palestinian militant group Hamas included “the most treacherous attacks in human history” with “unlimited” support from the West.
He called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes at the International Court of Justice in The Hague and reiterated his position – and that of Turkey – that Hamas is not a terrorist organization but a political party that won previous elections.
Britain, the US, the EU and some Arab states regard Hamas as a terrorist group, unlike Turkey. Ankara hosts some members of Hamas and supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“With the ferocity of bombing the civilians it forced out of their homes while they are moving, it is literally using state terrorism,” Erdogan said of Israel in parliament. “I say now, with my heart at rest, that Israel is a terrorist state.
“We will never shy away from voicing the truth that Hamas members protecting their lands, honor and lives in the face of the occupation policy are resistance fighters just because some people are uncomfortable with it,” he said.
Erdogan’s trip to Germany will be his first to a Western nation since Israel began bombing Gaza on October 7 in response to Hamas attacks. Germany has expressed strong solidarity with Israel, while calling for a focus on limiting the impact of military operations on Gaza’s civilian population.
“Unfortunately, the West, namely the United States, is still looking at this problem backwards,” Erdogan said, adding that he would call leaders of the countries that abstained last month from a UN General Assembly vote on an aid ceasefire in Gaza.
Later on Wednesday, Erdogan spoke with Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and told her that Ankara expected Rome’s support to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, the Turkish presidency said. Meloni’s office said she had called for rapid de-escalation in Gaza, adding that Turkey had a crucial role in preventing the spread of the conflict.
Erdogan also called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce whether or not Israel had nuclear weapons, adding that Netanyahu would soon be a “walker” from his post.
He also compared the conflict between Israel, a Jewish state, and the Palestinians to a war between the Christian and Muslim worlds, saying the crisis was “a matter of the cross and crescent”.
Ankara will also take steps to ensure that Israeli settlers in occupied Palestinian territories are recognized as “terrorists”, he added.
GAZAN CANCER PATIENTS TO TURKEY
Turkey has so far sent 666 tonnes of humanitarian aid, medicine and medical equipment and a medical team to Egypt for the Gazans. Ankara has said it is working with Egyptian and Israeli authorities as part of a coordination mechanism to bring cancer patients and some wounded civilians to Turkey for treatment.
Speaking at Egypt’s Al-Arish airport after meeting his Egyptian counterpart and visiting the hospitals housing wounded Gazans, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 26 patients and their 13 companions would be flown to Turkey on Wednesday.
Koca said the 39 people were the first to be brought out to Egypt and later to another country since the fighting broke out, adding that Ankara wanted to bring as many of the nearly 1,000 cancer patients from Gaza to Turkey as possible .
Footage later shared by Turkish state media showed Koca and officials greeting the patients as they arrived on stretchers at Al-Arish airport before being put on a plane to Turkey.
Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti and Angelo Amante in Rome; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Toby Chopra and Nick Macfie
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