January 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Turkey’s Erdogan Tries to Distract from His Support for Hamas

January 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Turkey’s Erdogan Tries to Distract from His Support for Hamas

Latest Developments

Turkish authorities arrested nearly three dozen individuals accused of spying for Israel, Turkish media reported on January 2. Ankara claims that Israel’s Mossad recruited the suspects to conduct “reconnaissance” on Palestinians in Turkey and to identify, target, and kidnap foreign nationals. Jerusalem declined to comment on the mass arrests, which come weeks after Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet, vowed to target Hamas terrorists “in every location,” including Turkey. Ankara subsequently warned that Israel will face “serious consequences” if it acts against Hamas in Turkey.

Expert Analysis

“This is all part of a two-pronged strategy for Erdogan: On the one hand, he continues to distract voters at home from economic misery by vilifying Israel. On the other hand, Erdogan is flexing his political muscle to demonstrate to his governing coalition partners and the opposition that he is clearly in command of the country. By taking action against alleged Israeli agents in Turkey, Erdogan wants to convey an aura of being decisive and strong. He achieves this by reiterating his support for Hamas and his condemnation of Israel” — Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

“Turkey remains a strong ally of Hamas, providing safe harbor to its operatives and spreading disinformation through its media. The United States should use the threat of sanctions to pressure Erdogan into mass arrests of Hamas operatives rather than phony roundups of supposed Israeli spies.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Erdogan Defends Hamas

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of Hamas’s staunchest public supporters in the wake of the terrorist group’s October 7 massacre. Erdogan has called Hamas “freedom fighters,” labeled Israel a “terrorist state,” and described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “butcher” and a “war criminal.” Erdogan also appeared to threaten military action against Israel on October 28, saying that Turkey can “come at any night unexpectedly.”

Political and Material Support

Turkey has long provided Hamas with political and material support. Ankara reportedly provided senior Hamas military official Saleh al-Arouri, who died in an Israeli strike on January 2, and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh with residency status and Turkish passports in 2020. Haniyeh, Arouri, and former Hamas chief Khaled Mashal have openly met with Erdogan many times, including in July and December 2023. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities in July 2023 seized 16 tons of explosive material shipped from Turkey and bound for Gaza, apparently intended for Hamas rockets. In December, the United States and the United Kingdom sanctioned eight Hamas financiers living in Turkey.

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

Why Erdogan Is Unlikely to Cut Ties With Hamas,” by Sinan Ciddi

Targeting Jihad Yaghmour and the Hamas operation in Turkey,” by Sinan Ciddi and Jonathan Schanzer


Israel Israel at War Turkey