Turkey turns blind eye as Hamas plots attacks from Istanbul – Daily Telegraph

The Palestinian Islamist militant organisation Hamas has been allowed to settle in and plot attacks from Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday, citing Israeli and Egyptian intelligence and police records.

The plots planned in Istanbul include a failed hit ordered in February either on the mayor of Jerusalem, a member of parliament from the ruling party or the Israeli chief of police in February, the Telegraph said, quoting transcripts of the Israeli police’s interviews with the suspect.

The senior Hamas operative who orchestrated the February plot, Zacharia Najib, offered to organise weapons training in Turkey for another man ahead of another suspected planned attack in Israel, the Telegraph said.

In another police transcript, a Palestinian imam describes a meeting in Istanbul with Hamas operative Hisham Hijaz, who tells him to find recruits for a suicide bombing attack, offering $20,000 as a reward to the attacker’s family.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has expressed its concern that “Turkey is allowing Hamas terrorists to operate from its territory, in planning and engaging in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.”

Yet Turkey continues to host senior Hamas figures and maintains close contact with the group’s operatives in Istanbul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last weekend, when Erdoğan declared his ongoing support for the Palestinian group.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, while Britain recognises its armed wing as a terror group.

But Turkey sees Hamas as a legitimate political party and denies that its territory is being used to carry out attacks on Israel, a charge also denied by the Palestinian party.

Meanwhile, the group’s deputy leader, Saleh al-Arouri, is able to travel freely to Turkey without fear of arrest despite the $5 million bounty placed on his head by the United States.

A dozen Hamas figures have moved to Turkey in the last year, including Abdel Rahman Ghanimat, who is notorious for planning a series of attacks in Israel including the 1997 bombing of the Café Apropo in Tel Aviv, the Telegraph cited Egyptian and Israeli records as saying.

While Israel’s relations with some of its neighbours in the region has seen improvement in recent years, Turkey has positioned itself as a leading advocate for the Palestinians while embracing Islamist groups across the Middle East.

“Mr. Erdoğan has concurrently pursued a foreign policy that has been, at times, openly antagonistic towards his allies in the West,” the Daily Telegraph said in an editorial accompanying its report.

“A NATO member, Turkey defied the United States by purchasing a missile defence system from Russia that the Americans say poses a threat to their F-35 stealth fighter jets. The recent NATO summit in London was marred by infighting over Mr. Erdoğan’s decision earlier this year to launch military operations against the Kurds in northern Syria,” it said.