Addressing hundreds of thousands of supporters, Erdogan accuses the West of being the main culprit in the war on Gaza.
At a massive pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel was an occupier in its war in Gaza, and repeated his stance about Hamas not being a terrorist organisation.
“I reiterate that Hamas is not a terrorist organisation. Israel was very offended by this … Israel is an occupier, Erdogan speaks clearly because Turkey does not owe you anything,” he told hundreds of thousands of supporters on Saturday.
People gathered at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport for a rally organised by Turkey’s governing AK Party to protest against Israel’s continued bombardment of the Gaza Strip and call for a ceasefire.
Demonstrators chanted pro-Palestinian slogans and waved Turkish and Palestinian flags at the event dubbed the “Great Palestine Meeting” on Saturday, as Israel pushed forward with its “expanded” ground operation amid a near-total communications blackout in the Gaza Strip.
The rally was attended by leaders of other political parties, as well as high-profile media and sports figures – some of whom were expected to take to the stage during the event, local media reported.
Erdogan told the crowd that Western powers were “the main culprit” behind the Israeli army’s “massacre” of Palestinians in Gaza.
“The main culprit behind the massacre unfolding in Gaza is the West,” said.
‘End the genocide’
Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from the rally, said this was “by far one of the strongest speeches that we’ve heard” from the president.
Protesters were seen wearing headbands with inscriptions such as “We are all Palestinians”, “End the genocide”, or “Be the voice of Palestinian children”.
Since Friday evening, Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been largely cut off from all communications with each other, as well as with the outside world, as Israeli ground troops battle Hamas fighters inside the besieged enclave.
According to Palestinian health authorities, at least 7,703 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardment since October 7, including about 3,000 children. More than 1,400 people were killed in the Hamas attack on Israel.
Large protest in London; ban in Berlin
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters were seen pouring onto the streets of London to demand the British government to call for a ceasefire. Other rallies were taking place elsewhere in the UK, including in Manchester and Glasgow.
Aerial footage showed large crowds setting off on the march organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, with the protest due to end outside the Houses of Parliament after passing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street office.
Echoing Washington’s stance, Sunak’s government has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, and instead advocated humanitarian pauses to allow aid to reach people in Gaza.
On Friday evening, police in Berlin again broke up several pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
More than 100 people were arrested in front of the Brandenburg Gate as a crowd chanted pro-Palestinian, and then anti-police, slogans during an unauthorised rally. Police clashed violently with some participants, injuring two officers, according to police.
Another pro-Palestinian demonstration on Alexanderplatz in central Berlin involving about 100 people was also broken up on Friday evening. Police said on Saturday that any would-be protesters were “aggressively approached and consistently expelled from the square”.
Authorities in Berlin have banned most pro-Palestinian rallies or demonstrations in the weeks since the 7 October attack by Hamas.