President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Wednesday before Parliament criticized Israel over its war in Gaza and defended Hamas. Photo courtesy of Office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Oct. 26 (UPI) -- President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey chastised Israel over its bombing of Gaza in its war against Hamas, a militant group he defended by saying it was "fighting to protect its land and citizens."
Erdogan's words, spoken Wednesday before the Turkish Parliament, were swiftly rebutted by Israel and are expected to raise tensions in the Middle East and between Turkey and its NATO allies, including the United States, which has voiced full support for Israel.
Israel has been incessantly bombing the Palestinian enclave of Gaza since Hamas launched a surprise attack Oct. 7, killing some 1,400 Israelis and kidnapping 220 others.
Meanwhile, the number of Palestinian dead rises daily amid Israel's response and has reached at least 6,546, including more than 2,700 children.
The United Nation's relief agency for Palestinian refugees said Wednesday that the bombing has destroyed or damaged more than 40% of all housing units in Gaza, while the number of internally displaced people is now estimated to be about 1.4 million.
Erdogan described Israel's offensive as "one of the bloodiest, most disgusting, most brutal attacks in history against innocent people in Gaza."
"This picture alone is enough to show that the purpose is not self-defense, but a brutality to commit the all-out human crime," he said.
"In the world, you will not find any other state and army that bombs cities day and night with warplanes just to kill children, burns hospitals, places of worship, schools, marketplaces, buildings, streets with fire; continues this inhumane action with its tanks, cannons and weapons."
The Turkish president also called out Western nations that have backed Israel in its war, but said that while they may be indebted to Israel, Turkey is not.
"Hamas is not a terrorist organization, but a liberation and mujahideen group fighting to protect its land and citizens," he said.
Not long after, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said they "whole heartedly" reject Erdogan description of Hamas.
"Hamas is a despicable terrorist organization worse than ISIS that brutally and intentionally murders babies, children, women and the elderly, takes civilians hostage and uses its own people as human shields," Haiat said in a statement.
"Even the Turkish president's attempt to defend the terrorist organization and his inciting words will not change the horrors that the whole world has seen and the unequivocal fact: Hamas = ISIS."
To Parliament on Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey has no problem with Israel, but that it cannot approve of its war, and he has canceled an upcoming visit to the country in response.