Seven of the people arrested in Turkey for allegedly spying on Israel's behalf and cooperating with the Mossad were Palestinian intelligence agents, according to the Palestinian news agency Shehab.
Shehab cited leaked information from a Gaza-based Palestinian organization. No Turkish officials have responded to the reports, though Turkish media linked to the government published news of the arrests of 15 alleged spies on Thursday.
Since the beginning of September, these seven suspects had disappeared one after the other, and their families lost contact with them, according to Arab media reports at the time.
The Palestinian Authority had informed the families of those missing that it was in touch with Turkish authorities to locate their relatives, and that a special Turkish-Palestinian task force had been set up to investigate the affair. Four of the seven missing were from Gaza, and three from the West Bank. One of the seven is a woman.
According to Shehab, the Palestinian intelligence chief, Gen. Majed Faraj, was responsible for the disappearance and arrest of the seven Palestinians.
The report said Palestinian intelligence intended to locate the missing Palestinians and assassinate them, after Israel repeatedly asked Turkey to extradite the seven and was refused.
The report implied that because Israel is afraid of carrying out assassinations on Turkish territory, it handed over the task to Palestinian intelligence instead.
A Gaza-based Palestinian organization is blaming Gen. Faraj for seriously harming the relations between the Palestinian Authority and Turkey.
The organization also said that the Turkish authorities confiscated large amounts of money from one of those arrested who was living in Istanbul. It added that an investigation had revealed that Palestinian Intelligence paid one of the detainees to gather information on Palestinians who live in Turkey and are wanted by Israel.
Earlier Thursday, the daily Turkish newspaper Sabah reported that 15 suspects were arrested a month ago for providing the Mossad with information on Turkish citizens and foreign students who study in the country.
- Iran is already stalking Israelis visiting the UAE. Mossad is bracing for the worst
- Israel's President Herzog, Turkey's Erdogan discuss Palestinian conflict, promoting ties
- Erdogan is on the line. Bennett should pick up the phone
The suspects provided information on students who will potentially work in the defense industry. The 15 were arrested the morning of October 7.
Charges are expected to be pressed against the suspects, who were reportedly divided into five cells, each comprised of three members.
The pro-government daily noted that the operation to arrest the suspects was conducted by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) following a year-long counterintelligence operation.
The suspects were monitored “for about a year, using technical and human-based intelligence methods,” during which time they engaged in espionage focused on Palestinians in Turkey, the paper added. “It was understood that the espionage network, which was recruited with money, shared the information it reached with the Mossad for tens of thousands of dollars and euros.”
Hamas has a command headquarters in Turkey.
Ankara’s relationship with Jerusalem has been rocky in recent years. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly tried to position himself as the defender of the Palestinians in the region and has launched fierce attacks against Israel's conduct during periods of armed conflict.