In perhaps the most openly hostile comments made publicly by a senior Israeli official against former ally Turkey, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday said Istanbul, along with Qatar, was openly backing terrorism.
Ya’alon, speaking at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, expressed outrage that the international community would allow nations to back terrorism while remaining full members of respected international organizations such as the UN and, in Turkey’s case, NATO.
“The command center of Hamas’s overseas operations sits in Istanbul. Saleh al-Arouri is the man sitting there,” he said, referring to the senior Hamas official, alleged by Israel to have played a key role in orchestrating the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in June, who is based in the Turkish capital and enjoys the support of local officials.
“Where is the world on this matter?” Ya’alon asked. “When speaking about the war on terror, [you must] start by whether you are willing to accept such phenomena — such countries who support terrorism and terror activity without hiding it.”
Ya’alon claimed the international community was utterly unprepared to deal with the growing threat of terrorism, adding that he hoped world leaders would view the Islamic State’s horrific actions in Syria and Iraq as a wake up call to take action against terrorist threats.
Ya’alon stated that he believed terrorism could be rooted out completely, but in order to reach such a goal countries across the globe, Israel included, would need to rely on close cooperation — both on an intelligence and operational level.
“The international system is not organized correctly in order to cope with terrorism, but perhaps Islamic State will spur the free world to fight against the phenomenon,” the defense minster said.
“In the end, terror will hit the countries that support terrorism,” he continued. “We need international cooperation, and we are ready to contribute.”
Ya’alon went on to criticize world powers for harshly judging Israel’s actions during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip over the summer. The minister said it was unjust to censure Israeli conduct and alleged violations of human rights during the operation, while Hamas — the terror group which controls Gaza — used Palestinian civilians as “human shields” in order to protect its rocket launchers and weapons caches.
“Is this how the free world prepares itself for the campaign against terrorism?” Ya’alon asked.
The US is working to forge a coalition to defeat Islamic militants terrorizing Iraq and Syria, with over 40 nations set to join the fight.
The US military has carried out 148 strikes against the radical Islamists — said by US officials to be about 10,000 strong — who have captured territory straddling northern Iraq and southern Syria with lightning speed.
The IS aim is to set up a caliphate — an Islamic form of government last seen under the Ottoman Empire — extending from Aleppo in northern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq.
The State Department has said that more than 40 countries have already expressed willingness to support the coalition. Among those countries which have publicly declared varying degrees of support are Australia, Canada and Britain, as well as France and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries such as Estonia, Denmark, Finland and Japan have pledged financial aid for humanitarian assistance to help civilians caught in the battle, according to US officials.
The 22-member Arab League agreed at a meeting on Sunday in Cairo to take the “necessary measures” to confront the terrorists.
AFP contributed to this report.