Erdogan cancels visit to Israel, says Hamas 'liberators not terrorists'
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he was cancelling plans to visit Israel because of its "inhumane" war against Hamas militants in Gaza.
"It's about time we talked clearly to those killing women and children," Erdogan said.
"We had a project to go to Israel, but it was cancelled, we will not go," Erdogan told ruling party lawmakers in parliament, adding that he viewed Hamas as "liberators" fighting for their own land.
Ankara's relations with Israel froze over an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship carrying aid into Gaza, which killed 10 civilians in 2010.
Erdogan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a United Nations summit in New York last month, marking an improvement in relations that began with a decision last year to reappoint ambassadors.
The Turkish leader did not say when he had intended to visit Israel, where Ankara had been eyeing joining a natural gas pipeline project promoted by the United States.
"Of course, we had good intentions, but (Netanyahu) abused them," Erdogan said.
"If he had continued with good intentions, our relations might have been different, but now, unfortunately, this will not happen either."
The latest and by far the deadliest Gaza war broke out when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and taking 222 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.
The health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza says 5,791 people have been killed, again mostly civilians, as Israel has bombarded the territory.
Erdogan had taken a more measured tone in the first day of war, condemning all attacks against civilians and urging Israel to be measured in its response.
But he became much more vocal after the deadly strike on Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza last week, leading to large and angry protests across the Muslim world.
On Tuesday, he accused the United Nations Security Council -- where the United States, Britain and France have permanent seats -- of bowing to the "Israeli regime".
On Wednesday, he added: "Those outside the region should stop pouring fuel into the fire.
"All parties should take their hands off the trigger and a ceasefire should be declared immediately... Direct or indirect negotiations should be initiated to release the hostages."
Erdogan is expected to appear at a massive rally in Istanbul on Saturday defending Palestinian right.