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Turkey’s Erdogan urges Palestinian unity after meeting Hamas chief

The ‘strongest response to Israel and the path to victory lie in unity and integrity’, Turkish president says.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Palestinians to unite amid Israel’s war in Gaza, following hours-long talks with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul, according to his office.

Ankara has repeatedly slammed Israel’s incursion into Gaza amid its failed attempts to stop the conflict, which has roiled the Middle East since October 7 last year.

Tensions in the region are running high as Gaza braces for a new Israeli offensive on the southernmost city of Rafah and after a reported Israeli attack on Iran on Friday.

“It is vital that Palestinians act with unity in this process. The strongest response to Israel and the path to victory lie in unity and integrity,” Erdogan said on Saturday after the talks at the Dolmabahce Palace, according to a Turkish presidency statement.

As soaring tensions between Iran and Israel stoke fears of a wider regional war, Erdogan said recent events should not allow Israel to “gain ground and that it is important to act in a way that keeps attention on Gaza”.

Hamas has had an office in Turkey since 2011, when Turkey helped secure the agreement for the group to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Erdogan has maintained links with Haniyeh, the group’s political leader, who has been a frequent visitor.

“Even if only I, Tayyip Erdogan, remain, I will continue as long as God gives me my life, to defend the Palestinian struggle and to be the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people,” the president had said on Wednesday when he announced Haniyeh’s visit.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said keeping the crisis in Gaza on the international agenda was a top priority for Turkey.

“Erdogan asserted that the tension between Iran and Israel should not overshadow what is going on in Gaza,” she said. “That is why the Turkish side will continue its diplomatic efforts to keep the matter alive in the eyes of the international community.”

Turkish, Egyptian FMs meet

Separately on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan held talks with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, with both men emphasising the need to deliver more humanitarian aid to devastated Gaza, where the threat of famine looms.

“We demand that the six Israeli crossings with Gaza be opened to humanitarian aid,” said Shoukry, adding that the failure to do so violates international law.

The two ministers also urged Iran and Israel to exercise restraint after unprecedented direct attacks on each other’s territory raised fears of a regional war.

Turkey is one of Gaza’s main humanitarian aid partners, sending 45,000 tonnes of supplies and medicine to the region.

Israel has said it is preparing an offensive against the city of Rafah, where some 1.2 million Palestinians are taking shelter after fleeing the conflict in other parts of the enclave.

The recent reported Israeli attack on the Iranian province of Isfahan, following Iran’s direct attack on Israel, has only clouded hopes of a peace breakthrough in Gaza.

More than 34,000 people have been killed and over 76,900 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October.

The death toll in Israel from Hamas’s October 7 attacks stands at 1,139, with dozens of captives held in Gaza.

Fighters also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

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