What comes next for Hamas members in Turkey?
Over the last decade, the far western suburbs of İstanbul have begun to resemble a safe haven for diverse foreign communities, including a new Afghan diaspora, long-time Syrian refugees and exiled members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Among them are also several senior figures of Hamas, the Islamist militant party governing Gaza which the US, EU and Israel designate as a terrorist group, but Turkey does not.
Following the group’s Oct. 7 surprise attack and amid Israel’s bombing campaign with prospects for a “long and difficult war” as stated by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the presence of Hamas members in Turkey will likely come under increasing scrutiny.
While the Israeli government is expected to press Ankara to stop hosting Hamas figures, Israel’s mounting military response and the images of human suffering it will produce, have already and will continue to stir Turkish public sentiments, which are by a large majority pro-Palestine.
This trend, and a threatened ground operation in Gaza, will put counter-pressure on Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not to heed future Israeli requests, placing recent progress on restoring bilateral ties at risk, analysts told Turkey recap.
“There are still a significant number of lower-level Hamas people in overt Hamas offices in Turkey,” said Matthew Levitt, Fromer-Wexler fellow and director of the Jeanette and Eli Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute.
“Turkey sees these people as members of the political wing of Hamas and, therefore, legitimate,” Levitt continued. “But this just feeds into the myth that there are distinct wings between Hamas, which is not true.”