At massive Istanbul rally: Erdogan says Israel behaving like 'war criminal'; Hamas 'liberation group not terrorist'

AFP , Saturday 28 Oct 2023

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told a massive pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul that Israel was an occupier while repeating his stance about Hamas not being a terrorist organisation.

Erdogan addressed a massive crowd waving Turkish and Palestinian flags during a rally organised by the AKP party in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, in Istanbul on October 28, 2023. AFP


"I reiterate that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. Israel was very offended by this.  Israel is an occupier, Erdogan speaks clearly because Turkey does not owe you anything," he told hundreds of thousands of supporters.

Earlier, while speaking to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, Erdogan said: "Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a liberation group, 'mujahideen' waging a battle to protect its lands and people," Erdogan said, calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

Erdogan's Islamic-rooted party staged a massive pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul on Saturday that the Turkish leader said had drawn a crowd of 1.5 million.

Erdogan has been a leading international supporter of Palestinian rights during his two-decade rule and has been much more vocal as the reported death toll from Israel's war on Gaza has mounted.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said Israeli strikes had killed 7,703 people -- mainly civilians -- with more than 3,500 of them children.

He unleashed a scathing attack on Israel and its Western supporters after taking the stage with a microphone in his hand.

"The main culprit behind the massacre unfolding in Gaza is the West," Erdogan told the Turkish and Palestinian flag-waving crowd.

"If we leave aside some conscientious voices... the massacre in Gaza is entirely the work of the West."

Erdogan added that Israel was behaving like a "war criminal".

"Of course, every country has the right to defend itself. But where is the justice in this case?"

He accused Western powers of "shedding tears" over the death of civilians in Ukraine and turning a blind eye to the death of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

"We are against all these double standards and all these hypocrisies," he said.

And he accused Israel's allies of creating a "crusade war atmosphere" pitting Christians against Muslims.

"Listen to our call for dialogue," Erdogan said. "No one loses from a just peace."

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