Fact-Check: Is The Turkish Army Heading Towards Gaza To Support Hamas Against Israel?

The relentless bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli jets has led to an emotional outburst in the Muslim world which has resulted in the spread of wild speculations and misinformation on social media.

Israeli actions against Palestine led multiple Muslim nations to issue strong condemnations and the leading world Muslim body, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), with a membership of 57 Islamic nations, convened an emergency meeting on Sunday.

The meeting, held virtually, called for an immediate halt to Israeli actions in Gaza, blaming the Jewish state of “systemic crimes” against the Palestinians.

While many countries called for exercising restraint, others such as Turkey and Pakistan took a tough stance, with the former even calling for the stationing of “international protection force” for Palestine’s civilians.

“These efforts should also include physical protection through forming an international protection force with military and financial contributions of willing countries,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during the virtual meeting. The country has indicated it is ready to take any necessary step to show solidarity with Palestine.

However, the widespread misinformation on social media suggested the country had already dispatched its army to Gaza, with many social media accounts saying Turkey was “the last hope” of Muslims in the world.

Old and unrelated pictures started appearing on Twitter and Facebook, showing armed Turkish regiments proceeding towards a mountainous road “towards Gaza.”

Some users of Facebook posted old pictures of missile launchers heading to Gaza, with others posting images of Turkish tanks and aircraft, supposedly ready to launch an assault.

However, a simple Google reverse search reveals the pictures are old and unrelated to the current Palestine-Israel issue.

Further investigation reveals that the pictures were taken from a rehearsal by Russian military vehicles in Moscow which took place on May 6, 2021.

Although Turkey has taken a tough stance on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, there clearly has been no decision to send Turkish troops to Gaza.

The country has been in touch with Russia, Pakistan and others, to help consolidate support for a possible solution for Palestinians, however, nothing concrete has come out of their efforts.

Why Turkey or Pakistan Can’t Confront Israel

Notwithstanding the country’s aggressive rhetoric against Israel, Turkey has maintained diplomatic relations ever since Israel was born.

There have been frequent ups and down between the relations of the two nations, for instance, after an incident in 2010 when Israeli security forces boarded a Turkish aid boat and killed ten Turkish activists, mistrust reached a new low, but the mutual trade between the two countries continued.

The two countries continue to engage in bilateral trade that had reached $6 billion in 2019. Israel continues to figure among Turkey’s top 10 export markets.

Historically, Turkey has maintained deep economic and diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, even when Israeli actions in Gaza angered the Muslim world.

More importantly, the two countries have been major defense partners for a long time. Turkish and Israeli defense companies have cooperated for decades in research and development.

Turkey achieved a significant level of self-sufficiency in producing its own defense equipment by the last decade and the dependence on other countries lessened, giving more room for an independent foreign policy to the government. Although much of the trade still continues.

That begs the question of whether the country will militarily involve itself to save Gazans from Israeli bombs? Will it send an army and equipment to Palestine to counter Israeli jets?

Another country where the public pressure for the government to send military support to Gaza has been growing is Pakistan, a close ally of Turkey.

Although boasting of a strong and well-equipped army and missile arsenal, the country is economically challenged to take any such step, and any adverse actions it takes could impact its relations with a number of countries further harming its foreign trade potential.

Russian expert analyst Sergei Marzeski says that given the experience of the Turkish way of military involvement in foreign conflicts in countries such as Libya, Syria and Azerbaijan, it could send proxy mercenaries and weapons to Gaza.

That will be a problem because as the Gaza Strip is under a naval blockade imposed by Tel Aviv, the Israeli Navy will simply not allow the next “Freedom Flotilla” to pass through, which will be loaded with weapons this time.

Marzeski believes Turkey could attempt to enter East Jerusalem by sending its own naval forces along with a new Freedom Flotilla to Gaza with humanitarian aid.

“This will almost inevitably lead to a military confrontation with the Israeli navy, which will lead to the sinking of Turkish ships and embarrass Ankara.

And do not forget the unwavering support of the US to Israel. An attack on Israel would be like an attack on the US which will have irreparable consequences on the belligerents and both Turkey and Pakistan understand that very well.

He says that although militarily Turkey will be severely defeated in such an adventure, it could still constitute a great victory for Erdogan as he would emerge as the new leader of the Islamic world who is not afraid of Israel.

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