The Israel Security Agency (ISA), also known as the Shin Bet, announced on Monday the arrest of a Turkish national and an Arab-Israeli both of whom were suspected of engaging in activities for the Hamas terrorist organization. The arrests suggest a nefarious connection between the Turkish government and Hamas.
The Turkish suspect, Cemil Tekeli, a lecturer in law, was arrested on January 1 for aiding Hamas terrorists in Turkey. After questioning, Tekeli was deported to Turkey and has since, been expelled from Turkey.
“During the investigation, it became clear that Hamas is in direct contact with Turkish authorities,” the ISA said in a statement.
Tekeli was an alleged go-between who connected Turkish authorities with Jihad Ya’amur, a Hamas operative. Ya’amur was involved in the 1994 murder of IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman and was released in 2011 along with over one thousand other convicted terrorists in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit who was in Hamas’ captivity since the summer of 2006.
The ISA also claimed that Tekeli helped Hamas officers settle in Turkey.
“Tekeli assisted them in obtaining visas that allowed them to stay in Turkey, in purchasing and renting commercial and residential properties, in purchasing luxury vehicles and in becoming established in business via the registration of companies in their names,” the statement read.
As part of the investigation into Tekeli, Israeli authorities on January 21 arrested the Arab-Israeli suspect, Dara’am Jabbarin. A resident of the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm’ in northern Israel, on Jabbarin is suspected of helping to transfer funds from Turkey to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to be used for terrorism. Two other residents of Umm al-Faham were also arrested on suspicion of helping transfer money from Turkey to Hamas.
According to the ISA, Jabbarin transferred a total of $246,000 and hid the funds in various secret locations to be picked up by Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria. When he was arrested, there was another $112,000 in his possession.
Both of the suspects were allegedly recruited in Turkey by Zaher Jabarin, a senior Hamas official responsible for the organization’s budgetary terror operations in Judea and Samaria. Jabarin resettled in Turkey after he was released from Israel in exchange for Gilad Shalit.
“Investigation findings have revealed wide-ranging Hamas activity in money laundering in Turkey on instruction from Zaher Jabarin, while concealing from the authorities the sources of the funds,” the ISA added.
The ISA also believes Turkish involvement in Hamas extends much more than what was revealed in the investigation and may even include the Turkish government. The statement accused Turkey of aiding Hamas’ military via SADAT, a military consultancy and training firm that has close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. SADAT was established by Adnan Basha, a senior adviser in the Turkish government. The SADAT website claims its purpose is to is to establish a “Defensive Collaboration and Defensive Industrial Cooperation among Islamic Countries to help Islamic World.”
“One of [SADAT’s] employees even helped senior Hamas officials to visit a 2015 weapons show in Turkey, during which they expressed interest in UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, i.e. drones),” the ISA added.
The ISA also said the investigation showed that Hamas’s economic and military activity in Turkey continues.
“It takes place unhindered as Turkish officials turn a blind eye and—on occasion—encourage it, and with the assistance of Turkish nationals, some of whom are close to the government,” its statement elaborated.
“This activity relies on—inter alia—business platforms that serve Hamas in laundering funds that are transferred to Judea and Samaria and used in recruiting Israelis to its ranks.”
Turkey downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel after nine Turkish nationals were killed during an IDF raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla. Tensions escalated after IDF commandos were beaten with pipes and other weapons by the passengers onboard. A tenth Turkish citizen injured during the raid died several years later. Relations between Israel and Turkey were officially restored in June 2016.