Senior Hamas member Said Shaat has told international media that Hamas-run Gaza is expecting visits in 2011 from several international leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan has been harshly critical of Israel since taking office, and Israel-Turkey ties, once warm, are now virtually non-existent.
During a visit to Lebanon last week Erdogan blasted Israel and accused the IDF of a “massacre” of children in Gaza. He also accused Israel of “piracy” and “state terror” over the deaths of nine pro-terror Turkish activists killed in a clash with IDF soldiers.
The activists, members of the IHH, were attempting to break the IDF's naval blockade on Hamas. They were not bearing aid. When IDF commandos attempted to turn their ship aside, they attacked the soldiers with knives and guns, seriously wounding them. Soldiers opened fire in defense and killed nine.
“You bloodthirstily slaughter my nine innocent citizens who were taking food to babies and then you expect us to keep silent. We will not keep silent,” Erdogan said in Lebanon, addressing Israel. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was present for his speech.
Erdogan's new, hostile approach to Israel has won him fans throughout the Arab world. During his trip to Lebanon, he was given a leadership award from the Union of Arab Banks. He will soon travel to Libya, where Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi plans to give him the Distinguished Statesman award.
Erdogan is currently leading an international online poll to choose Time Magazine's Person of the Year. The magazine noted that Erdogan has accused Israel of “inhumane state terrorism” and stated that under Erdogan “Turkey displayed a newfound willingness to flex its diplomatic muscle.”