Ankara has warned Israel that it will face “serious consequences” if it tries to assassinate Hamas members on Turkish soil, reports said Monday, a day after recordings were revealed of the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency saying Jerusalem is determined to kill leaders of the Palestinian terror group “in every location” around the world.
“In Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar, everyone,” Ronen Bar said in recordings aired by Kan news Sunday evening. “It will take a few years, but we will be there in order to do it.
“The cabinet set a goal for us, to take out Hamas. And we are determined to do it, this is our Munich,” Bar could be heard saying, referring to the years-long Israeli effort to assassinate Palestinian terrorists responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics attack, in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered.
On Monday, the Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed Turkish intelligence official as saying: “Necessary warnings were made to the interlocutors based on the news of Israeli officials’ statements, and it was expressed to Israel that [such an act] would have serious consequences.”
Turkey’s Anadolu news agency similarly quoted local sources warning the Jewish state against “engaging in illegal activities” in the country.
War erupted on October 7 when some 3,000 terrorists led by Hamas burst through the border from the Gaza Strip and rampaged through southern regions, slaughtering over 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians massacred amid brutal atrocities. At least 240 people of all ages, including small children and the elderly, were abducted and taken hostage in Gaza. Some 100 were returned last week under a release deal.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel was planning to hunt down Hamas leaders around the world once it shifts away from fighting the group in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered spy agencies to draw up plans to assassinate the group’s top leaders outside of Gaza, who live in Turkey, Qatar, and elsewhere, the paper reported, citing Israeli officials.
According to the report, some called for Israel to immediately assassinate Hamas leaders who live in Doha following the October 7 attack. However, such actions on Qatari or Turkish soil could have strained or torpedoed diplomatic efforts to free hostages, and the idea was pushed off. (Qatar indeed played a key role in the eventual hostage deal with Hamas.)
A week-long truce secured the release of dozens of Israeli women and children held hostage in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel. Though it was up for extension, Hamas violated the truce on Friday and fighting resumed.
Kan reported that Hamas responded to Bar’s remarks, saying that the threats to assassinate its leaders “reflect the political and military crisis the enemy is in, due to the resilience of the Palestinian people and the courageous resistance forces.”
It said the threats “do not frighten the organization’s leaders. They constitute a blatant violation of the sovereignty of the ‘sister countries,’ which the senior officials of the enemy mentioned, and constitute a direct harm to the security of these countries.”
Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s plans for assassinations abroad in an address in late November, to the ire of some, who preferred to keep the future campaign under wraps, according to WSJ.
The paper also reported that Israel is looking into the possibility of expelling lower-level Hamas fighters from Gaza to shorten the war.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been in the midst of an effort to warm ties with Israel in the months before the war, but has since sharply backtracked and returned to the same vitriolic attacks that characterized many of the Islamist leader’s previous years in power.
Erdogan said Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will yet be put on trial for alleged war crimes just like former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.
“Netanyahu, the butcher of Gaza, is not only a war criminal, but he will definitely be tried as the butcher of Gaza, just like Milosevic was tried,” Erdogan said in a speech at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.
Netanyahu would need to be indicted by an international tribunal in order to stand trial for alleged war crimes. Milosevic was put on trial by a UN tribunal in The Hague on charges of fomenting bloody conflicts as Yugoslavia crumbled in the early 1990s. He died in his cell before the court could reach a verdict.
Aside from possible assassinations abroad, the Mossad and Shin Bet have reportedly formed a special operations center tasked with tracking down and killing members of the Hamas commando unit that led the October 7 attacks.
According to the Ynet news site, the unit will be named after the World War I-era Jewish underground organization “Nili,” an acronym for a Hebrew phrase that translates as “The Eternal One of Israel will not lie.”
Israel has already announced the killing of several top Hamas commanders in Gaza during the fighting, though the group’s local leader Yahya Sinwar and his deputies remain at large.
AFP contributed to this report.