Senior Hamas official Salah al-Arouri has “voluntarily” left Istanbul as part of a deal to rebuild ties between Turkey and Israel. It is believed he is heading either to Qatar or Lebanon. However, his departure has not yet completely clarified the status between Israel and Turkey, sources for both sides said.
Al-Arouri was one of the founders of the Izz a-Din al-Qassam military wing of Hamas. He served 15 years in Israeli prison before he was expelled to Syria; in 2012, he fled to Turkey when the Syrian office of Hamas shut down.
The Hamas operative was also the main player responsible for the abduction and murder by Hamas terrorists of three Israeli yeshiva teens in Gush Etzion in June 2014. That attack ignited a series of conflicts that led to the launch of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s counter-terrorism war with Hamas.
The departure of al-Arouri from Turkey was agreed upon between Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a meeting on Saturday.
Erdogan is deeply loyal to Hamas, as he is to the Muslim Brotherhood which spawned the terrorist group.
Incoming Mossad director Yossi Cohen met last Thursday in Zurich together with Israeli and Turkish contacts to firm up normalization of ties between the two countries. During those talks it was reportedly agreed ambassadors for the two nations would return to their respective offices. In addition, it was allegedly agreed that Israel would establish a compensation fund for the families of those who were killed in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident; in return, Turkey would abandon any and all other claims regarding the case.
But in a statement that followed the meeting, the prime minister’s office stressed that the “understandings” still remained to be signed. A spokesperson for Turkey’s ruling (AK) Justice and Development Party said much the same thing in a statement on Sunday. He noted that although the “people of Turkey and the people of Israel certainly are friends,” nevertheless there remains much to do.
One of the unfinished issues between the two sides is Turkey’s loyalty to Hamas, and Erdogan’s unwillingness to close the offices of the terrorist group. Another is the unwillingness of Israel to remove its blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. The group is generously funded and equipped by Iran, which smuggles funds and weaponry to Gaza however possible.