Fresh sanctions against Hamas leaders, some of whom live in Turkey, again raises the concerns the U.S. has over a historically important NATO ally continuing to support a widely-recognized terrorist group.
“Today’s Treasury announcement makes it clear, yet again, that Turkey is a state sponsor of Hamas,” Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital.
“Turkey continues to pose a major problem to the United States, NATO, Israel and the broader Middle East,” he argued. “Sanctions are a good way to draw attention to the problem, but more needs to be done: The U.S. must begin to take steps to shut down the Incirlik air base and cut off Turkish banks from the financial system.”
“NATO must take steps to remove Ankara from the alliance,” Schanzer stressed. “Israel must begin to target some of the Hamas leaders in Istanbul through kinetic means, and the international community must begin to shun Turkey diplomatically.”
The U.S. Treasury and the United Kingdom started targeting Hamas leaders and financiers with strict sanctions following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel, but this week’s sanctions hit some of its leaders who currently live in Turkey.
The Trump administration raised strong objections to Turkey’s seemingly close relationship with Hamas after Ankara welcomed the leaders to live in the country in 2020. American officials highlighted the Hamas leaders’ specific, albeit alleged, involvement in multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings and kidnappings, but Turkey “fully” rejected the criticism.
“Declaring the legitimate representative of Hamas, who came to power after winning democratic elections in Gaza and is an important reality of the region, as a terrorist will not be of any contribution to efforts for peace and stability in the region,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in 2020.
At the time, Turkey argued that it would look to use the relationship to approach a “balanced policy” that would serve Israel’s interests and seek a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel had discussed plans to kill Hamas leaders “in every location” around the world, including in Turkey, after the operation in Gaza concluded. The revelation prompted strong condemnation from an unnamed Turkish intelligence officer, who told The Times of Israel that Jerusalem could expect “serious consequences” for such acts within Turkey’s borders.
“Necessary warnings were made to the interlocutors based on the news of Israeli officials’ statements, and it was expressed to Israel that [such an act] would have serious consequences,” the official said.
Reports claimed that some in Israel called for immediate assassination against the officials in Turkey and in Doha, Qatar, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deterred such calls with an understanding of the significant and negative impact it could have on diplomatic efforts to free hostages.
Qatar, which has hosted an office for Hamas in Doha for over a decade now, played a key role in the release of dozens of hostages over the past few weeks, but the Biden administration has considered asking Qatar to shut down the office.
“We have made clear that following Oct. 7 there can be no more business as usual with Hamas,” a senior administration official told Politico. “This is a discussion we will continue to have with partners in the region.”
The U.S. initially requested Qatar set up and host the office in 2012, and it could have the power to therefore request its shutdown, even though some remain concerned over the potential impact this would have on future backchannel efforts.
The U.S. State Department and Turkish embassy did not respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.