JERUSALEM – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has facilitated major financial investments by Hamas in businesses located in Turkey, primarily hotels, according to informed Middle Eastern defense officials speaking to WND.

The defense officials said the financial ventures currently constitute the largest returns for the investment wing of Hamas’ government.

The officials said Turkey has replaced Iran as the biggest financial backer of Hamas. While a portion of that Turkish backing comes in the form of direct grants, the more lucrative transactions for Hamas are derived from the business opportunities to which it has been privy.

The defense officials said Erdogan and his government facilitated the Hamas business investments, working with Abed El Aziz, the head of the Gazan group’s superior council for investments.

The officials said Erdogan wanted the aid to Hamas to be returned to his country in the form of employment that helps to fuel the Turkish economy.

Hamas was given prime rates for investments in hotels, restaurants and other firms based inside Turkey.

In fact, the officials say Turkey now has eclipsed Iran and Qatar as the biggest financial backer of Hamas.

Iran has scaled back much of its aid to Hamas, while Tehran continues to contribute the Islamist terror group’s so-called military wing.

Qatar provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, but lately the country has only been cutting checks directly to businesses and humanitarian groups operating inside Gaza, deliberately bypassing Hamas, the defense officials said.

The cutbacks in aid have so affected Hamas that the group has lately been paying its employees every 50 days and only half the salaries owed.

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