December 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Leaders Hold Secret Meeting in Turkey

December 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Leaders Hold Secret Meeting in Turkey

Latest Developments

Top leaders of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas held a secret mid-December meeting in Turkey as Israel’s war against the organization continues in the Gaza Strip. The meeting, first reported on December 17 by Israel’s Kan news agency, included the deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, along with former Hamas chief Khaled Mashal and other high-ranking Hamas officials. According to the report, the officials discussed potential next steps in the war against Israel, potential involvement by the Lebanese, Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, and a possible new round of hostage releases.

Expert Analysis

“Turkey has become an indispensable territory for Hamas operations, from fundraising to operational planning to communications. This makes Turkey a state sponsor of terrorism. The government in Ankara has yet to pay a price for this. Sanctions and other punitive measures must be considered. This has gone on for far too long.” Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“Turkey remains steadfast in its support for Hamas. From parliamentarians to government officials, Ankara never refrains from advocating for Hamas’s interests. Additionally, Turkey is a frontline state that helps Hamas raise funds for its operations. It comes as no surprise that its leadership identified Turkish soil as safe territory to meet.” — Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

Hamas Representatives Active in Turkey

Ankara has long harbored Hamas’s top leadership and provides the organization with financial and material support. Mashal, al-Arouri, and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh have openly met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan many times, including in July and October this year. Ankara has provided Arouri and Haniyeh with residency and Turkish passports, which have allowed them to travel internationally unhindered. Arouri, Hamas’s West Bank chief, is a U.S.-designated terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head. On December 13, the United States and the United Kingdom jointly sanctioned eight Hamas finance officials and representatives living in Turkey for raising money for the terrorist group.

Erdogan’s Anti-Israel Rhetoric

Following Hamas’s October 7 massacre in Israel, Erdogan said, “Hamas is not a terrorist organization” but “a liberation group, ‘mujahideen’ waging a battle to protect its lands and people.” Erdogan’s worldview is shaped by the National Outlook Movement, the founding movement of political Islam in Turkey, which harbors deep anti-Western and antisemitic beliefs. During a pro-Palestine rally on October 28, Erdogan called Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip a “massacre,” adding that Ankara would “tell the whole world that Israel is a war criminal.” He also appeared to threaten military action against Israel, saying that Turkey can “come at any night unexpectedly.”

After the release of a recording where the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency vowed to hunt down Hamas officials living abroad, Erdogan threatened on December 6 that Israel “would pay a very heavy price,” if Israel assassinates Hamas leaders in Turkey. Two days earlier, Erdogan called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a war criminal and the “butcher of Gaza.”

10 Things to Know About Hamas and Turkey,” FDD Insight

U.S., UK Impose New Sanctions on Hamas Finance Officials and Representatives,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel to Reevaluate Diplomatic Relationship with Turkey After Erdogan’s Threats,” FDD Flash Brief


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Turkey