Israel arrests Palestinian students for Hamas funding via Turkey

The Israeli authorities arrested five students of the Birzeit University near Ramallah for alleged funding for the militant Islamist group Hamas through their headquarters in Turkey, newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Tuesday.

The students maintained contact with Hamas officials in Turkey and were members of a kutla (Islamic student group), according to the Israeli Defence Forces and Shin Bet security service.

The five students are accused of transferring funds to Hamas members in Judea and Samaria, by submitting financial requests for their kutla activities, the transfer of which would then be approved by Hamas leaders in Turkey. The money would be transferred via credit card and the students would later withdraw it from ATMs in Ramallah, Israel Hayom said.

“Hamas headquarters in Turkey and the Gaza Strip exploit students,” a senior IDF official told the newspaper. Joining a kutla would mean joining Hamas, the official said.

This year, the Israeli military listed Turkey among threats to the country for the first time, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hosting of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Turkey in December 2019, the Times of Israel reported in January. Shortly after the visit, Israeli intelligence said that an assassination had been planned from Hamas’s Istanbul headquarters.

A cyberwarfare centre run by Hamas was discovered in Istanbul in October, separate from the Hamas offices in the city that have been in operation since 2012, the Times newspaper reported citing Western intelligence agencies.