The Palestinian terror group Hamas is secretly operating a facility in Turkey where it conducts cyberattacks and counterintelligence operations, according to a British newspaper report Thursday.
Citing Western intelligence sources, the Times of London said the headquarters was set up two years ago and is overseen by Hamas military leaders in the Gaza Strip.
The headquarters, which is separate from Hamas’s official offices in the city, was set up without the knowledge of Turkish authorities, the report said.
The facility is reportedly overseen by Samakh Saraj, a senior member of the terror group who reports directly to Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza.
הטיימס מדווח על שלוחה ממודרת של חמאס באיסטנבול שמנוהלת מעזה על ידי חבר הנהגת חמאס ברצועה סאמח סראג' (בתמונה) המדווח ישירות לסינוואר.
השלוחה פועלת ללא ידיעת שלטונות טורקיה ועוסקת ברכש של ציוד דו-שימושי היכול לשמש גם לטרור, סייבר נגד יריבי חמאס ברש"פ ובעולם הערבי וסיכול נגדי pic.twitter.com/o6rXGktdDp
— Gal Berger גל ברגר (@galberger) October 23, 2020
The report said the headquarters’ missions included obtaining “dual-use” equipment for producing weapons; coordinating cyberattacks against Hamas’s enemies, including the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority; and conducting counterintelligence operations against members of the terror organization suspected of disloyalty.
There was no Turkish response to the report.
In August, the British daily The Telegraph reported that Turkey was granting citizenship to a dozen high-ranking Hamas members involved in coordinating terror attacks, which was later confirmed by the chargé d’affaires at Israel’s embassy in Ankara.
Hamas is feared to be planning attacks against Israelis in Europe, The Telegraph said, and Turkish citizenship would enable its members to travel more easily.
Turkey sees Hamas as a legitimate political movement. The country has long maintained warm ties with Hamas, which have grown more overt as relations with Israel have chilled over the last decade. Israel has complained to Ankara about its ties to Hamas, but to no avail, according to the report.
In August, Turkish President Recep Erdogan met with a Hamas delegation that included politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh and the terror group’s No. 2, Saleh al-Arouri — a top military commander who has a $5 million US bounty on his head.
The meeting was harshly condemned by the US State Department, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the criticism, accusing Washington of “serving Israel’s interests.”
In December 2019, The Telegraph cited Israeli sources as saying that Turkey is allowing Hamas members to plan attacks on its soil. Israeli officials told the paper at the time that Turkey has reneged on its 2015 commitment, negotiated by the US, not to allow Hamas officials to plot terror attacks against the Jewish state from its territory.
Hamas and Erdogan’s AKP party are linked politically. Both have close ideological ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement.