(New York, N.Y.) — Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on the Turkish government to shut down Hamas offices within Turkey’s borders after Israel broke up a Hamas cell of more than 50 operatives who Israel's Shin Bet security agency said were directed from Turkey. Israeli intel also concluded the group was under the direction of Hamas senior leaders Saleh al-Arouri and Zacharia Najib. Lapid’s demand came just days after a Hamas shooting in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing one individual and wounding four others. Hamas praised gunman Fadi Abu Shkhaydam as a “heroic martyr.” Shkhaydam allegedly engaged with Hamas agents in Turkey while traveling to the country over the past several months.
Hamas, one of the 28 original groups designated by the U.S. as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, maintains its primary base of operations in the Gaza Strip but also maintains a presence in the West Bank, Qatar, and Turkey. The terror group’s Istanbul bureau was created in 2012 following an announcement the year prior that Turkey would transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas. Turkey has subsequently invested billions of dollars in Gaza, freeing Hamas leaders to spend a greater proportion of their resources smuggling goods and weapons to attack Israelis through its sophisticated network of underground tunnels.
Hamas operatives working in Turkey actively recruit Palestinians living there as well as in Jordan, Syria, and other Arab countries. The recruits are sent to the bureau in Istanbul, where they reportedly receive security clearances and begin training outside of the city with the knowledge of Turkish officials. In addition, the Istanbul bureau has reportedly supplied many of the weapons used by Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
Through its HARBORS Campaign, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) highlights Turkey’s support for and cooperation with extremist groups including Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Haqqani Network, and the Taliban, including by providing refuge within its borders to senior leaders of the aforementioned groups.
To learn more about CEP’s HARBORS Campaign, please click here.
To read CEP’s resource Turkey, please click here.
To read CEP’s resource Hamas, please click here.