Turkey is allowing senior Hamas officials in the country to operate and plot attacks against Israel, including several failed assassination attempts of Israeli officials, the Telegraph reported Wednesday.
The report cites transcripts of interrogations of suspects arrested by Israel, which are said to reveal how the Palestinian group is directing operations in the West Bank and Jerusalem from Turkish soil.
In February, according to the report, Hamas plotted to assassinate a senior Israeli official, with former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick and former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh being looked at as targets. The group's attempts, however, failed.
A senior Hamas official, Zakaria Najib, offered money and weapons training in Turkey to an operative who came from Israel, in exchange for him following through with the assassination plot. Najib reportedly told the operative that he had to kill an important Israeli figure "to be remembered."
According to the Telegraph, Turkish intelligence agents are in close contact with the organization's operatives in Istanbul, and Erdogan himself is keeping an eye on their activities and allowing them to be based in the country. "We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine," the Turkish president said.
In 2015, Turkey agreed to prevent Hamas from planning terror attacks from its soil. However, the Telegraph noted that sources in Israel say that Turkey is not honoring its commitment. The Turkish government reportedly allowed Hamas to continue to operate, even as Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, moved away from the organization. According to reports, Israeli and Egyptian intelligence documents indicate that some Hamas operatives have moved from the Gaza Strip to Istanbul in the past year.
The Israeli foreign ministry expressed concern over tensions between the two countries, despite maintaining diplomatic relations. "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 foreign ministry told The Telegraph.
Turkish diplomatic sources denied the report and dismissed Israel's concern as "baseless allegations" that aim to disrupt political relations with Turkey, claiming Hamas was "not a terrorist organization," but a legitimate Palestinian political party, reported The Telegraph.
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