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Turkey’s Erdogan welcomes Gaza pause, refers to Netanyahu as the ‘butcher of Gaza’

palestinian children walk among the houses destroyed in israeli strikes, at khan younis refugee camp
The Khan Younis refugee camp as it is today

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday welcomed a pause in the Gaza war and the exchange of hostages and prisoners between Israel and militant group Hamas as a temporary “stop of bloodshed” in the enclave.

Turkey, which supports a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, has strongly criticised Israel for its ground and air assault on Gaza, launched in retaliation for Hamas’ rampage last month in which some 1,200 people were killed and 240 others taken hostage.

More than 15,000 people, mostly women and children, have so far been killed in the Israeli campaign, health officials in the enclave say.

“We view the hostage exchanges, the humanitarian pause as a positive development in terms of a stop of bloodshed,” Erdogan said.

Speaking to lawmakers in parliament, Erdogan slammed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s retaliatory assault, adding the Israeli premier would be remembered as the “butcher of Gaza”.

“The statements coming from the Netanyahu government are lessening our hopes that the humanitarian pause can be turned into a lasting ceasefire,” Erdogan added, without elaborating, while repeating his view that a genocide was taking place in Gaza.

He said he would discuss the situation in Gaza during a visit to Dubai later this week, adding Ankara would ramp up diplomatic efforts for a full ceasefire and hostage exchanges in coming days.

Unlike most of its Western allies and some Gulf states, NATO member Turkey does not view Hamas as a terrorist group. It hosts some members of the militant group, but has also not taken steps to curb trade or energy ties with Israel. No big Turkish company has moved to divert businesses either.

Erdogan said Turkey had “largely completed” evacuating its nationals from Gaza. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Ankara was expecting to receive 50 Gazan patients on Wednesday as part of a medical evacuation scheme which have brought more than 150 people, mostly cancer patients and their companions, for treatment.

Koca said the 50 evacuees, most of whom are children and young people, would arrive in Ankara on Wednesday afternoon from Egypt. He added the youngest evacuee is a 7-month-old baby.

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