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Thwarted terror plot puts Hamas’s Turkey HQ in the spotlight 

“For over a decade, under Erdoğan and the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey has established itself as a comfortable and broad arena for Hamas's activities,” expert tells JNS.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meet in Istanbul, April 20, 2024. Source: Turkish Presidency/X.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meet in Istanbul, April 20, 2024. Source: Turkish Presidency/X.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at:

June 3 provided a reminder of the active and dangerous threat posed by Hamas’s increasingly entrenched headquarters in Turkey. On that day, the Israel Security Agency disclosed that it had thwarted a terrorist attack orchestrated by Hamas from its base on Turkish soil.

“In the harsh anti-Israel atmosphere in Turkey following [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s severe economic measures against Israel, it is no surprise that Hamas has resumed its operational activities from Turkish soil, if it ever stopped at all,” said Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya.

“The infrastructure is at least partially in place, and recently some Hamas leaders have returned to visit Turkey and met with Erdoğan,” he added.

A new flotilla to Gaza was planned with the assistance of local Turkish elements, some known from the past, but did not proceed, possibly due to heavy diplomatic pressure on Turkey, including from the United States, he said.

Karmon also pointed out that Turkey recently announced, on at least two occasions, that it had arrested what it claimed were Mossad networks targeting Palestinians in Turkey.

All of this however does not mean that the Turkish government is aware of every planned Hamas attack, he noted.

“The fact that the Foreign Minister is [Hakan] Fidan, a loyalist of the president and former head of Turkish intelligence could also help in this matter,” he said. “The Turkish Foreign Ministry was, in the past, generally more sensitive and cautious regarding actions against Israel,” he added.

Before arriving in Lebanon, home to another major Hamas HQ, Hamas’s deputy political bureau chief, Saleh al-Arouri (who was assassinated in Beirut in January) was based in Turkey between 2012 and 2015.

According to the ISA’s recent announcement, the thwarted attack involved Anas Shurman, a Palestinian from Tulkarem residing in Jordan, who was apprehended on March 15, by ISA and Israel Police counter-terror unit forces in Nablus. Shurman is suspected of plotting a bombing attack in Israel.

During his interrogation, Shurman revealed that he was recruited by Hamas operative Amad Abid, originally from Judea and Samaria but operating from Turkey, in December 2023, according to the ISA. Shurman had agreed to execute a suicide bombing in Israel on behalf of Hamas. He recorded a will, received motorcycle training for the attack and was provided with funds and instructions for executing the bombing and retrieving the explosive device hidden in Judea and Samaria, the intelligence agency said.

As part of the investigation, a 12-kilogram explosive device was discovered hidden near a spring in the Samaria region. Alongside the explosive, a letter with instructions for the attack was found. Several Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria who were part of the relevant terrorist infrastructure in Nablus were also detained. Their involvement in preparing and concealing the explosive device under the guidance of Khudifa Salaimeh, another Hamas operative based in Turkey, was uncovered.

Shurman has been charged with severe security offenses, including attempted murder, contact with an enemy and membership in an illegal association. Five Nablus residents were also charged with severe security offenses, including attempted murder.

The investigation underscores the strategic entrenchment of Hamas’s headquarters in Turkey and its role in orchestrating attacks within Israel, the ISA said. It also highlights Hamas’s recent attempts to escalate tensions during Ramadan. Notably, on March 11, a Jenin resident was neutralized by ISA and IDF forces while en route to Israel with a ready-to-use explosive device.

Col. (ret.) Michael Milshtein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, and former Head of the Department for Palestinian Affairs in IDF Military Intelligence, told JNS, “For over a decade, under Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey has established itself as a comfortable and broad arena for Hamas’s activities.”

This Turkish policy finds expression both at the political and operational levels, said Milshtein. This involves meetings and conferences with Hamas members in Istanbul and talk of a move by Hamas’s political leadership from Qatar to Turkey, but also the orchestration of attacks and preparing terror operatives, including in the fields of cyber and technology, he said.

“The Turks do not assist Hamas like Iran and Hezbollah; they are NATO members after all. However, it remains a very convenient arena for Hamas operations.”

Among other factors, it is Israel’s reluctance to act in Turkey due to concerns with regard to harming bilateral relations that makes it a highly convenient location for Hamas, he said.

 “Hamas understands this sensitivity and therefore feels very comfortable operating in Turkey,” he said. The only way this would change, he added, is if there were a shift in Turkish policy or “significant” Western and specifically U.S. pressure on the Turkish government.

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