(Gebze) An armed man claiming to act “for Gaza” detained several employees on Thursday evening at a factory of the American group Procter & Gamble (P&G) located on the outskirts of Istanbul, in north-west Turkey.
The man, who took seven employees hostage according to the Umut-Sen union, justified his act by ongoing Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, local police told AFP.
Special forces began negotiations with the hostage taker, who has been holding the employees since around 3 p.m. (7 a.m. Eastern Time), according to local media.
A spokesperson for American household and hygiene products manufacturer Procter & Gamble confirmed to AFP that its factory in Gebze, on the eastern outskirts of Istanbul, was “evacuated earlier today”.
“We are working with local authorities to resolve an urgent security situation,” said the P&G spokesperson.
“Workers evacuated from P&G factory in Gebze; seven workers remain hostages,” said the Umut-Sen union in a message posted on the social network X.
A police cordon prevented access to the surroundings of the factory on Thursday evening, where some 500 people are usually employed, AFP journalists noted. A riot police bus arrived near the factory in the middle of the evening.
“If he does this for Palestine, let him go and fight there. What does my 26 year old daughter have to do with this? », Declared to AFP Çigdem Aydemir, the mother of one of the detained employees, surrounded by anxious relatives waiting in the night.
His daughter shared on her Instagram account – verified by AFP – a photo showing the hostage taker with his face partially covered by a Palestinian keffiyeh, carrying what could be explosives secured under his chest with adhesive tape and a pistol in the right hand.
“For Gaza,” says a message bulging in red on a wall behind him, under two Turkish and Palestinian flags facing each other.
“He supposedly does this for Islam but it is those like him who do the most harm to Islam,” reacted Sedat Degirmenci, the father-in-law of one of the hostages.
“We have no information from the inside. We have been waiting for six hours but no one in charge has made a statement,” lamented the father of another hostage, refusing to give his identity.
The husband of another employee told the private news agency DHA that the hostage-taker had threatened to “shoot in all directions” in the event of police intervention.
American support for Israel
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of Israel’s most critical leaders since the start of the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, has repeatedly denounced U.S. support for Israel, which he described it as a “terrorist” and “genocidal” state.
Calls to boycott American products have also been widely reported in Turkey since the start of the conflict. Several McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks cafes – which operate under Turkish license – were vandalized across the country.
At the beginning of November, Turkish police had to disperse using tear gas a pro-Palestinian rally organized in front of a military base housing American forces, a few hours before a visit to Ankara by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Crowds of protesters also gathered in the early days of the conflict in front of the US embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul.
Demonstrations in support of the Palestinians are regularly organized in the country.