The Turkish government is allowing Hamas operatives to plan attacks against Israel from Turkey.
The Turkish government is allowing Hamas operatives to plan attacks against Israel from Turkey, the Telegraph reported in an exclusive story.
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan greeted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul, but Raf Sanchez, the Telegraph’s Istanbul reporter, notes that the relationship between Turkey and Hamas is deeper and closer than the relationship Turkey maintains with any of its neighbors.
The Telegraph says that Israel has, on numerous occasions recently, given the Turkish authorities detailed intelligence information that Hamas operative exploit Turkish hospitality to planning, and train for, attacks on Israeli targets. Erdoğan is reported to have responded: “We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine.”
One of the Hamas operatives in Turkey was captured outside of Turkey and interrogated by Israeli security services. He confirmed intelligence already in Israeli hands that Hamas operatives in Istanbul are managing operations in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
One such operation was the failed assassination attempt earlier this year of former mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat. The assassination was to be carried out by 23-year-old East Jerusalem resident Adham Muselmani, who was recruited to the cause in a meeting in Istanbul, where he also did his training for the operation.
Hamas, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement, is actively supported by Turkey and Qatar. Turkey under Erdoğan views itself – and movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas — as offering a version of political Islam which is more pious than the secular politics practiced in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, yet less dogmatic than the fundamentalist Wahabi Islam championed by Saudi Arabia.
Qatar, the ruling royal family of which has had a long-running feud with the rulers of Saudi Arabia, supports the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas because of their opposition to Saudi Arabia.
Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, the EU, and several Arab countries, but Turkey has granted its leaders and operatives sanctuary.
In a 2011 interview with PBS, Erdoğan said: “Let me give you a very clear message. I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party. And it is an organization. It is a resistance movement trying to protect its country under occupation.”
Hamas leaders told theTelegraph that the organization does not use Turkish territory to plan attacks against Israel. Israel’s claims are “baseless allegations,” a Hamas spokesman said. “Hamas’s resistance activities are conducted only in the land of occupied Palestine.”
The Telegraph reports that several senior Hamas figures have moved from Gaza to Istanbul in the last year. Many of the Hamas operatives in Turkey were released from Israeli jails in 2011, in exchange for the release by Hamas of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The British newspaper notes that Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri “travels freely to the country without fear of arrest,” despite a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head for terrorism charges. At least eleven Hamas figures “who have left [Gaza] in the last year, according to a list compiled by Israeli intelligence and Egyptian border authorities” are known to have relocated to Istanbul.