June 27, 2024 | Flash Brief

Erdogan Backs Hezbollah in War with Israel

June 27, 2024 | Flash Brief

Erdogan Backs Hezbollah in War with Israel

Latest Developments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on June 26 to back Lebanon if a full-scale war breaks out between Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah and Israel. In a speech to parliamentarians from his ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan claimed that Israel had “turned its eyes on Lebanon after destroying and burning Gaza.” Ignoring Hezbollah’s unprovoked cross-border attacks — which began in the wake of October 7 Hamas atrocities in Israel, displacing more than 60,000 Israelis from their homes in the north — Erdogan said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “plans to spread the war to the region will lead to a big catastrophe” and that “Turkey stands with the brotherly people and state of Lebanon.” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz rebuked Erdogan’s remarks, calling the Turkish president “a war criminal who slaughters innocent Kurds across the Syrian border and tries to deny Israel its right to self-defense” against an Iran-backed terrorist organization.

Expert Analysis

“Until now, in the Gaza conflict, Erdogan has mostly relied on providing direct support to Hamas. It is now becoming clear that Ankara will support the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah. Both strategies are intended to serve the same goal, which is not to prevent wider regional conflict, work to secure the release of Israeli hostages, or implement post-conflict scenarios. Erdogan’s maneuvers are targeted solely to weaken and humiliate Israel. Given its backing for Hamas, Ankara is unlikely to object to working with another regional terrorist entity to achieve these aims. It already has long experience backing radical jihadist entities in Syria, which Turkey relies on to attack the Kurdish partners of the United States.” — Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

“Erdogan and Nasrallah are reading off the same sheet of music. Turkey is following the threats made by Hezbollah to target countries like Cyprus that have worked productively with Israel on regional security. Iran of course is pulling the strings, working overtime to ready an international media campaign in support of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, like Hamas, could use Turkey as an external hub for financing and logistical support. Erdogan, through his anti-Israel rhetoric and actions, has already positioned Turkey to be a life raft for Hezbollah should Israel take further military action in Lebanon.” — Tyler Stapleton, Director of Congressional Relations at FDD Action

Hamas in Turkey

Erdogan has long given Hamas operatives a haven in Turkey. In 2011, Hamas established a presence in Turkey at the direct invitation of the Turkish government. Ankara has also provided passports to senior Hamas leaders, including Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh and his now-deceased deputy, Saleh al-Arouri. On May 14, the London-based The Times reported that Israeli troops uncovered documents at the home of a high-ranking Hamas terrorist in Gaza outlining plans to establish a base in Turkey.

Ankara’s Campaign Against Israel

Erdogan has continued to lambaste Israel since Hamas’s October 7 massacre. During a pro-Hamas rally on October 28, Erdogan called Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza a “massacre” and said that Turkey is preparing to “tell the whole world that Israel is a war criminal.” Erdogan has also compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and falsely accused Israel of committing “genocide” in Gaza. 

On May 1, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced that Turkey would join South Africa’s genocide complaint against Israel at the International Court of Justice. The next day, Turkey suspended trade with Israel. Ankara released a communique on May 2 confirming that all “exports and imports to and from Israel have been suspended … until the Israeli government allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Will Turkey Work With Hezbollah?” by Sinan Ciddi

Hamas Chief Meets Turkish President, Considers Move From Qatar to Turkey,” FDD Flash Brief

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

Issues:

Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Israel Israel at War Lebanon Turkey