According to a Telegraph report Tuesday (Exclusive: Hamas plots attacks on Israel from Turkey as Erdogan turns blind eye), Israeli police interrogations have shown that senior Hamas operatives stationed in Istanbul direct operations in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, including an assassination attempt on former mayor Nir Barkat.
The report notes that Israel has repeatedly told Turkey about Hamas using Istanbul to plan attacks, which did not stop President Erdogan from meeting Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh last weekend, and stating, “We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine.” It also hasn’t stopped Turkish intelligence agents from maintaining close contact with Hamas agents in Istanbul.
Hamas enjoys a safe harbor in Istanbul, even though it is considered a terrorist group by the EU and the US (the UK only recognizes its armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as terrorists). Hamas is also shunned by pro-Western Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.
Israeli police interrogation transcripts reviewed by the Telegraph reveal that in February, a Hamas official ordered the assassination of former Jerusalem mayor and Likud MK Nir Barkat. The same transcripts also show an assassination attempt on Israel’s chief of police, despite the fact that since the resignation of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh in 2018, Israel does not have a chief of police. In another case, Hisham Hijaz, a Hamas operative released from Israeli prison in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal, offered to pay $20,000 to the family of any young Arab who would volunteer to blow himself up as a suicide bomber.
“Turkey has proved such a welcoming environment for Hamas that the group’s deputy leader, Saleh al-Arouri, who has a $5 million US government bounty on his head, travels freely to the country without fear of arrest,” the Telegraph reported, adding that “this week a relaxed Arouri posed for photographs with other Hamas leaders in Istanbul.”
One Gazan who migrated to Turkey told the Telegraph: “There are a lot of Hamas leaders who come to Istanbul with their families and their children. Why is it that Hamas leaders get to leave the situation in Gaza when the people have no jobs or services?”
The Telegraph reminded its readers that “Israel has a long history of carrying out assassinations of Hamas figures abroad,” but noted that “so far Israel has refrained from acting against Hamas operatives in Turkey, perhaps out of concern for the diplomatic fallout of an assassination in the territory of a NATO member state with whom it has diplomatic relations.”