When reminded about Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal's visit to Gaza on Dec. 5, Erdoğan told reporters in plane en route to Ankara from Madrid that he could also accompany him to Gaza.
“Yesterday I had talks with Khaled Meshaal. I could make a surprise to you [by visiting Gaza]. He invited [me to Gaza]. And said they are ready,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan had planned to visit Gaza twice before but could not arrange the trip due to several factors. The Turkish prime minister was planning to visit Gaza earlier this month during his Egypt trip but failed to do so after Israel launched a military operation in Gaza.
A total of eight days of punishing Israeli air strikes on Gaza and a barrage of Hamas rocket fire at Israel ended inconclusively on Wednesday. While Israel said it inflicted heavy damage on the militants, Gaza's Hamas rulers claimed that Israel's decision not to send in ground troops, as it had four years ago, was a sign of a new deterrent power held by Hamas.
Israel launched the offensive on Nov. 14 to halt renewed rocket fire from Gaza, unleashing some 1,500 air strikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Hamas and other Gaza militants showered Israel with just as many rockets.
The eight days of fighting killed 161 Palestinians, including 71 civilians. Six Israelis, two soldiers and four civilians were killed and dozens others wounded by rockets fired into residential neighborhoods.
For years, Hamas relied heavily on Iran and Syria. The need became even stronger after the militant group seized Gaza in 2007, triggering an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade. Hamas became an international pariah because of its refusal to abandon its militant ideology. Syria hosted the Hamas leadership in exile, while Iran provided it with cash and weapons.
However, the uprising against Bashar al-Assad has made it impossible to maintain that alliance. The revolt was led by fellow Sunnis, some with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the regional organization that also spawned Hamas. Early this year, Hamas leaders left their Damascus headquarters. The organization's chief in exile, Mashaal, found a new home in Qatar.
Hamas leaders in Gaza, the group's stronghold, have been reluctant to sever ties with Iran unless a new benefactor steps up. Hamas needs millions of dollars in aid each year to continue running Gaza, an impoverished territory of 1.6 million.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited the narrow enclave during Israel's military offensive along with a dozen Arab ministers to show solidarity with Gazans.