(December 18, 2019 / Israel Hayom) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is turning a blind eye to the fact that senior Hamas officials based in Istanbul are actively plotting terrorist attacks against Israel, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
Citing transcripts of Israeli interrogations, the report claims that senior Hamas operatives are using Turkey’s largest city to plan and direct attacks in Judea and Samaria, and in Jerusalem.
Israel has repeatedly warned Turkey that officials with Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group from the school of the Muslim Brotherhood that is also sponsored by Iran, is using its soil to plot attacks.
These warnings seem to have fallen on deaf ears; Erdoğan met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Ankara just last week, declaring that his country “will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine,” the report said.
The report quoted Israeli officials as saying that while Turkey had agreed as part of a U.S.-brokered 2015 deal to stop Hamas from planning attacks from its soil, Ankara has consistently failed to do so.
“Israel is extremely concerned that Turkey is allowing Hamas terrorists to operate from its territory, in planning and engaging in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians,” The Telegraph quoted an Israeli Foreign Ministry official as saying.
Turkey has agreed to offer Hamas officials safe harbor in Istanbul even as major powers in the Arab world, such as Saudi Arabia, have expelled them. The report quoted Israeli and Egyptian intelligence sources as saying that about a dozen senior Hamas operatives have moved to Istanbul from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in the past year alone.
A Turkish diplomatic source denied Hamas was planning terrorist attacks against Israel from Turkey, telling The Telegraph Hamas “is not a terrorist organization,” but a legitimate Palestinian political party.
Hamas denied the allegations as “baseless,” saying they were designed to damage the group’s political ties with Ankara, the report said.
“Hamas’s resistance activities are conducted only in the occupied land of Palestine,” said a spokesman.
The report noted that so far, Israel has refrained from acting against Hamas operatives in Turkey, saying Jerusalem may be wary of the diplomatic fallout due to Turkey’s NATO membership, as well as over what such a move might mean to its diplomatic relations with Turkey itself.
Israel and Turkey were once close allies, but diplomatic relations between the two have soured in the past decade. Under Erdoğan, Turkey has become a vocal critic of Israel, sparking frequent verbal feuds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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