Hamas members have been planning attacks against Israel from Turkey including an assassination attempt on former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat earlier this year.
According to a report in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, several Hamas operatives in Istanbul have been freely running operations in Jerusalem. The newspaper said that Hamas is trying to recruit suicide bombers and offering $20,000 rewards to the attackers’ families. They are plotting assassination attempts of senior Israeli officials, including Barkat and former Police commissioner Roni Alsheikh.
Hamas, the terror organization that has run the Gaza Strip since 2007, maintains as part of its official charter a mission to wipe Israel off the map. The Islamic movement promotes the use of jihad — holy war — as it “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” which to them means the entirety of modern-day Israel.
Many Western nations have declared Hamas a terror organization and would consider Hamas operations on their soil illegal. But not Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom many see as a dictator, welcomed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Istanbul on Saturday, but the relationship between the two is deeper and closer than with Turkey’s surrounding nations.
Israel warned Turkey about the Hamas operations there, but according to the newspaper, Erdoğan refuses to stop them.
“We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine,” he reportedly said. “Let me give you a very clear message. I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party,” Erdoğan said in 2011. “And it is an organization. It is a resistance movement trying to protect its country under occupation.”
Hamas denied planning attacks from Turkey.
“Hamas’s resistance activities are conducted only in the land of occupied Palestine,” a Hamas spokesman said.
But the Telegraph reported that at least 11 senior Hamas officials live in Istanbul including seven men freed by Israel as part of an exchange to free IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from Gaza in 2011. Some 1,000 security prisoners detained by Israel were released in that deal.