Report says Turkey sent away head of Hamas’ political bureau

Report says Turkey sent away head of Hamas’ political bureau
Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh. /
By bne IntelIiNews October 22, 2023

Turkey reportedly politely sent away the head of Hamas' political bureau, who was in Istanbul when the militant group stormed into Israeli towns across the border from the Gaza Strip and committed a massacre.

Ismail Haniyeh and his entourage were asked to leave the country after footage circulated on social media showing him and other Hamas members prostrating themselves in a “prayer of gratitude” while watching TV news of the incursion that began on October 7, two different sources briefed Al-Monitor. Like other Hamas leaders, Haniyeh lives in voluntary exile, moving between Qatar and Turkey.

Turkey is walking a diplomatic tightrope. In calibrating its stance on the conflict between Hamas and Israel, the Islamist-rooted Erdogan administration must take into account its need to maintain advocacy of the Palestinian cause, the fate of the ongoing rapprochement between Ankara and the Israelis following a bitter divide that for years meant no diplomatic relations and the potential opportunity for Turkey to play an important role as a negotiator that could help defuse the Gaza crisis and secure the release of hostages held by Hamas since its strike on Israel. For the West, Turkey is seen as a rare partner who can talk to Hamas, even though any third party lead role in negotiations for a ceasefire—should such negotiations become possible—would almost certainly be taken by Egypt.

Though Erdogan has gradually toughened his angry rhetoric in response to the mounting casualties in Gaza under Israeli bombardment—and hit out at the visit last week paid to Israel by US President Joe Biden, saying it amounted to an approval of the destruction wrought in Gaza by the Israelis—the Turkish leader has restrained his language against Israel in comparison to his outbursts of the past.

That has apparently not gone down well with Hamas.

A Palestinian source in Ankara told Al-Monitor: “The Palestinian groups, including Hamas, have been dissatisfied with Turkey’s stance. Its statements are viewed as inadequate. They did not even summon the Israeli ambassador to the Foreign Ministry [for protest].”

Interviewed on Turkey’s Haberturk TV last week, Khaled Meshaal, another senior Hamas figure, remarked: “I have great respect for Turkey. [But] Turkey should say ‘stop’ to … Israel.” 

On October 19, local reports said that in the wake of the angry street protests that broke out across Turkey in reponse to Israel's seige and bombing of Gaza, Israel's ambassador to Ankara, Irit Lillian, had left the country along with other Israeli diplomats.

Earlier last week, Israel's National Security Council issued a warning against Israeli citizens travelling to Turkey, advising that Israelis could be targeted by those angry at the conflict in Gaza. It also urged Israeli citizens in Turkey to leave as soon as possible.


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