Turkey has asked the top leaders of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, to leave the country, following their surprise attack on Israel that killed 1,300 Israelis and took at least 100 Israelis hostage.
Several sources told Middle East Eye that all of Hamas‘ senior leaders in Turkey have left the country after being asked to do so by the Turkish authorities. The sources said that Turkey did not want to be seen as hosting Hamas leaders on the day of the attack, which sparked international condemnation and outrage.
The sources said that among those who left Turkey were Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, and Khaled Meshaal, the former head of the bureau and a prominent figure in the group. They also said that Turkey’s engagements with Hamas were conducted over the phone, so senior officials were not in Turkey permanently.
Hamas has not confirmed or denied the reports, but a Palestinian source in Istanbul told Middle East Eye that there was a “distortion” and that most of the Hamas officials went to Qatar.
Hamas’ Main Ally
Turkey has been one of the main supporters of Hamas and its cause, providing financial and political backing to the group. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also hosted several meetings with Hamas leaders in Ankara, despite Israel’s protests and objections.
However, Turkey’s relations with Hamas have also been a source of tension with other countries, especially the United States and Israel, which consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Turkey has also faced criticism from some Arab countries, which have recently normalized ties with Israel under US pressure.
The expulsion of Hamas leaders from Turkey came as Israel continued its offensive on Gaza, which it launched on October 7 in response to the Hamas attack. Israel said it was targeting Hamas militants and infrastructure, but its air strikes have also hit residential buildings, schools, hospitals and media offices.
According to the latest figures from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, at least 1,900 Palestinians have been killed and 7,696 wounded since Israel launched its offensive. Among the Palestinian casualties, 2,000 are children and 1,400 are women.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the situation in Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire. However, previous attempts to broker a truce have failed, as both sides have rejected each other’s conditions.