It has been revealed that Turkey is giving sanctuary to Hamas operatives to recruit and train Palestinian terrorists who are visiting the country before they return to Israel and try to carry out their missions.

The Telegraph was the first to break the news based on Israeli police interrogation transcripts with terrorist suspects showing that Hamas is using Istanbul as a base.

Israel says it has told Turkey that Hamas is using its territory to plan these attacks, but instead of dealing with the situation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last week. “We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine,” Mr Erdogan said.

This is the first foreign visit by Ismail Haniyeh since 2017, and it is telling that Turkey is the location and that Erdogan gave support to him.

Turkey signed an agreement with Israel in 2015 saying it will stop Hamas planning attacks from its soil but has repeatedly failed to honour this deal. Turkish intelligence agents are also said to maintain close contact with Hamas operatives in Istanbul, so it is likely they are well aware of what is taking place.

The Telegraph reports:

The issue has fuelled hostility between the two states, even though they maintain 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,” its foreign ministry said.

The Turkish government has offered Hamas safe harbour in Istanbul even as Arab states such as Saudi Arabia have distanced themselves from the group and moved closer to Israel. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the EU and US. Its armed wing has been designated a terror group by the UK.

Turkey has proved such a welcoming environment for Hamas that the group’s deputy leader, who has a $5 million US government bounty on his head, travels freely to the country without fear of arrest. A dozen Hamas operatives have moved to Istanbul from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in the past year, according to Israeli and Egyptian intelligence records.

Among them is the former leader of a suicide bombing cell responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Israel in the Nineties.

In one failed plot in February, a Hamas official ordered a Palestinian to assassinate Jerusalem’s mayor, an MP from Benjamin Netanyahu’s party or Israel’s chief of police. The plot failed. In another case, a Hamas operative offered to pay $20,000 to the family of any would-be suicide bomber.

A Turkish diplomatic source denied Hamas was planning attacks from Turkey. He said the group was “not a terrorist organisation” but a legitimate Palestinian political party. Hamas denied planning attacks from Turkish soil and dismissed Israel’s complaints as “baseless allegations” designed to damage political relations with Turkey.

“Hamas’s resistance activities are conducted only in the land of occupied Palestine,” a Hamas spokesman said. Leading Hamas operatives and alleged linked businesses did not respond to requests for interviews.

The Telegraph included a terrorist suspect’s testimony on how he was recruited, the process in Turkey and even the targets he was given by his Hamas handlers.

Adham Muselmani braced against the February wind sweeping through Istanbul’s Taksim Square and dialed the number he had been given.

The phone rang once. Twice. The 23-year-old Palestinian rehearsed the code he had been told to say: “This is Tariq from Jerusalem. I’m in Istanbul and I’ve come to eat knafeh,” a sticky dessert.

Forty minutes later he was face-to-face with Zacharia Najib, a senior Hamas operative, who told him that if he wanted to be remembered he needed to kill a prominent Israeli.

Najib suggested three targets – Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem; Yehuda Glick, an MP from Benjamin Netanyahu’s party; or Roni Alsheich, Israel’s police chief – and offered him funds as well weapons training in Turkey.

Muselmani returned home to Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp and was looking into buying a Glock pistol when he was arrested by the Shin Bet, Israel’s equivalent of MI5.

The failed assassination plot was one of several recent attacks on Israel that Hamas planned from Istanbul while Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has turned a blind eye and embraced the Islamist militant group, a The Daily Telegraph investigation has found.

Transcripts of Israeli police interrogations with Muselmani and other would-be attackers show senior Hamas operatives are using Turkey’s largest city to direct operations in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

This is a worrying sign for relations between Israel and Turkey. Turkey has advanced into Syria, a country located on Israel’s northernmost border. There has been growing suspiscion that Turkey was a safehaven for Hamas. The evidence is now clearly pointing in that direction.

Last month Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, gave a scathing attack on Erdogan for his support of terrorism, his actions against Israel and his attacks on the Kurds.

“Erdogan has turned Turkey into a safe haven for Hamas (terrorists) and a financial center for funneling money to subsidize terror attacks. Erdogan’s Turkey shows no moral or human restraint towards the Kurdish people. Erdogan has turned Turkey into a regional hub for terror,” Danon said.

Danon complained, “As Erdogan expands his terror campaign into Syria, the U.N. Security Council focuses on Israel. It is a disgrace to this body’s mandate that this Council continues to target Israel instead of the atrocities performed by Erdogan. Recycling old arguments over and over against Israel instead of focusing on the devastation caused by Erdogan, as we sit here today, will not save the lives of the Kurdish people.”

He continued, “Israel warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds, and calls upon the international community to take action and provide aid to the Kurdish people.”

Danon added, “His violence in Syria also resulted in the strengthening of ISIS. While he was busy murdering those who have helped keep the world safe from the threat of ISIS, he allowed ISIS members to break out of prison and subject the world to future attacks.”

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