Ismail Haniyeh, the political chief of Hamas, spoke with Turkey’s state-run news agency on Tuesday to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Palestinian Land Day.
Israel, the United States and several European countries designate Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Turkey rejects this designation, saying that the group is a legitimate political actor.
“Our loyalty to our homeland and the right to return is an indispensable, sacred right,” Haniyeh said in the interview in Istanbul.
Turkish President Erdoğan hosted Haniyeh in Turkey twice last year, prompting condemnations from Israel, as well as global powers such as the United States. Erdoğan is seeking to restore diplomatic ties with Israel even as his country continues to host many Hamas activists.
Land day commemorates the killing of six Palestinians by Israeli forces on March 30, 1976 during a street protest against the Israeli government’s expropriation of Palestinian land in the northern Galilee region.
“This dark day is immortalised in the memory of the Palestinian people. This day unites all Palestinians in Jerusalem, in Gaza, in the West Bank, as well as those living in exile and in diaspora,” Haniyeh said.
In January, Israel told Turkey that there would be no thaw in relations until the military wing of Hamas in Istanbul is shut down, Israeli news outlet YNet reported.
Israel controls 85 percent of historical Palestinian land. Under British mandate between 1920 and 1948, Jews controlled only 6.2 percent of it, Anadolu said on Tuesday, citing the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).