Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the civilian deaths in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza in ongoing Israeli airstrikes, calling him a “war criminal” and “baby-killer” during a party speech on Wednesday, the T24 news website reported.
Akşener talked about the Hamas-Israeli conflict, which started after Hamas militants carried out an unprecedented surprise attack in Israel on Oct. 7, at her party’s parliamentary group meeting.
Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 people, both civilians and soldiers, according to Israeli authorities. It was the deadliest attack by militants in Israel’s 75-year history.
Following the attack, Israel began retaliatory strikes on Gaza, which claimed the lives of at least 6,500 people, according to local health officials.
“How can a statesman be so merciless?” the İYİ leader asked, pointing to the civilians who were killed in Gaza.
Akşener also accused Netanyahu of being “conscienceless” and called on the international community to stop using diplomatic language with him and speak out against his “crimes against humanity.”
“The fact is this: Netanyahu is a war criminal. Netanyahu is a baby killer. The terrorism carried out by Netanyahu, killing civilians and children, is no different from the terrorism of Hamas, which targets young people at a music festival,” she continued.
Akşener also slammed Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who on Saturday and Tuesday gave a 24-hour deadline to Israel to stop its airstrikes on Gaza, saying Turkey should take military action if no ceasefire is achieved within that timeframe.
“Since he couldn’t stop Netanyahu within the 24-hour ultimatum he gave, he should resign and go to Gaza! … He shouldn’t take credit for our soldiers’ work … because big words are justified by big actions,” Akşener said.
The 24-hour deadline Bahçeli gave to Israel led to some jokes and ridicule on social media, especially after it expired, with many accusing him of “playing to the audience.” Some social media users said if Bahçeli were sincere about his call, then he should break his alliance with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for not sending Turkish troops to Gaza.
Earlier this month, Akşener also said at a party meeting that refugees, especially the Syrians who fled the civil war in their country and took refuge in Turkey, could at least go to Gaza and “shoot the Israelis.”
The İYİ leader added that she would cover the cost of the first few cars needed for their trip to Gaza out of her own pocket.
In mid-October, six political parties in the Turkish Parliament including the İYİ Party in a joint declaration called for restraint in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in a rare show of unity. The parties said the crisis poses a grave threat to regional security and stability and has the potential to spread to other regions.
The Hamas-Israeli conflict came at a time when Turkey was just normalizing its relations with Israel after years-long tension, with both sides announcing the full restoration of relations and the return of ambassadors to both countries last year.
Turkey, which supports the Palestinian cause, does not recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization, and Hamas leaders and militants are known to enjoy a safe haven in Turkey.