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Turkish paper claims authorities arrested 15 alleged Mossad agents in country

Sabah newspaper says 200 intel officers followed the cell for a year before arresting them on October 7; they are said to have spied on students, including Palestinians

Blurred photos of three the 15 alleged Mossad agents are published by the Turkish Sabah daily. Background: Pro-Palestinian Turkish demonstrators holding Turkish and Palestinian flags take part in a rally to protest in Istanbul, Febuary 9, 2020. (Screenshot: Sabah; AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Blurred photos of three the 15 alleged Mossad agents are published by the Turkish Sabah daily. Background: Pro-Palestinian Turkish demonstrators holding Turkish and Palestinian flags take part in a rally to protest in Istanbul, Febuary 9, 2020. (Screenshot: Sabah; AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Turkish media on Thursday reported that 15 men who allegedly spied for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency were arrested by authorities earlier this month.

The Sabah daily, which is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that some 200 intelligence officers were involved in the efforts to locate the spies.

According to the report, the arrests took place on October 7 following a year-long National Intelligence Organization (MIT) operation.

The spies, said to be of Arab descent, operated in groups of three, the report said. Some had met with Mossad agents in Croatia and Switzerland, where information was exchanged.

They had also received orders in the Romanian capital of Bucharest and Kenya’s Nairobi, the report claimed.

The five groups had operated in different areas of the country, Sabah reported.

The men had provided the Mossad with information on students who study in the country, some of whom were Turkish citizens and others foreigners, including Palestinians, the report said.

The main targets of the espionage operation were Palestinians in Turkey and facilities that hosted them, Sabah claimed.

According to the paper, MIT also uncovered how the operatives were paid, which included cryptocurrency payments and money transfers from jewelry and currency exchange stores.

There was no immediate official comment from Turkey on the matter.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas terrorist movement chief Ismail Haniyeh, prior to their meeting in Istanbul, February 1, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

A report last year claimed the Palestinian terror group Hamas was secretly operating a facility in Turkey where it conducted cyberattacks and counterintelligence operations against Israel.

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 British daily The Telegraph also reported in 2020 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.

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 2020, 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 at the time, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the criticism, accusing Washington of “serving Israel’s interests.”

Hamas and Erdogan’s AKP party are linked politically. Both have close ideological ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement.

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