Erdogan says Israel holding ‘many times more’ hostages than Hamas

Ankara, Nov 18 (UNI) Turkey advocates a hostage exchange in the Gaza Strip, but the problem is that Israel is holding “many times more” hostages than Palestinian movement Hamas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

“The exchange of hostages. Yes, we also advocate this. If we talk about the number of hostages, then what is the number of hostages being held by Israel and what is the number being held by Hamas? If you look at this, Israel is holding many times more hostages. It would be unfair if we turned a blind eye to this,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

The Turkish leader noted he could “speak freely” of his country’s position on the Gaza conflict as Turkey “is not indebted to Israel.”

Scholz, for his part, said at the joint press conference with the Turkish leader that the lives of civilians “are of equal value” both in Israel and in the Gaza Strip, although underscoring Israel’s right to self-defense.

At the same time, the German chancellor also recalled that Berlin had increased humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine by over 160 million euros ($174.5 million) in 2023.

“Mr. President [Erdogan], it is no secret that we sometimes have very different views on the current conflict. That is why our conversations are important. It is in difficult moments when we need a direct conversation with each other,” Scholz stated.

The German chancellor announced that after the press conference, he and Erdogan would discuss humanitarian aid for the residents of Gaza and a possible ceasefire in the enclave to free the hostages. The leaders are also expected to discuss the Ukraine conflict and Sweden’s NATO aspirations.

Earlier in the day, Erdogan, accompanied by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Trade Minister Omer Bolat, arrived in Berlin for a two-day visit. Last time the Turkish leader visited Berlin was in 2018, when Germany was headed by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel. Prior to the joint press conference with Scholz on Friday, Erdogan met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The two presidents discussed the conflicts in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, the future of NATO, bilateral ties, EU-Turkey relations and migration issues.

On October 7, Palestinian group Hamas launched a surprise large-scale rocket attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip and breached the border, killing and abducting people in neighboring Israeli communities. Israel launched retaliatory strikes and ordered a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off supplies of water, food, and fuel. On October 27, Israel launched a large-scale ground incursion inside the Gaza Strip with the declared goal of eliminating Hamas fighters and rescuing the hostages. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of around 1,200 people in Israel and over 12,000 in the Gaza Strip.

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