In a striking display of support for Palestinian rights, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly criticized Israel, likening its actions in Gaza to that of a "war criminal" amidst ongoing hostilities. Erdogan, a stalwart supporter of Palestinian rights throughout his two decades in power, has been increasingly vocal as the death toll in Gaza rises, with reports from the region's health ministry citing 7,703 casualties, predominantly civilians, and over 3,500 children.
On Saturday, President Erdogan addressed a mammoth crowd of 1.5 million at a pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul, where he pointedly accused Western nations of being the primary orchestrators behind the Israeli army's "massacre" in Gaza.
He asserted that the West, with a few conscientious exceptions, bears sole responsibility for the tragedy unfolding.
Erdogan Escalates Rhetoric Post-Attack
Erdogan's remarks come at a critical juncture, following a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in over 220 hostages and claimed upwards of 1,400 lives.
While initially adopting a cautious stance, Erdogan has since taken a more assertive tone, particularly in light of the escalating death toll attributed to the Israeli military's response. The Turkish leader juxtaposed the international community's reaction to the Ukrainian crisis with its response to the Gaza situation, criticizing the apparent double standards and hypocrisy.
He accused Israel's allies of fostering a "crusade war atmosphere" between Christians and Muslims, and called for dialogue, emphasizing that "no one loses from a just peace." This significant pro-Palestinian gathering comes on the eve of the centenary celebrations of modern Turkey.
However, some analysts suggest that news coverage of the rally may overshadow the commemorations honoring Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the nation's founding father. This shift in focus reflects Erdogan's influence in diminishing support for Ataturk's Western-oriented principles, as seen in the simultaneous display of images of both leaders in government and educational establishments across Turkey.
Despite these tensions, the Turkish government assures that the Israel-Hamas conflict will not dampen the centennial celebrations, with a series of nationwide events planned for the occasion.