November 2, 2022 | Flash Brief

Hamas Operations Continue Unhindered in Turkey

November 2, 2022 | Flash Brief

Hamas Operations Continue Unhindered in Turkey

Latest Developments 

Israel indicted three of its citizens in late October for providing intelligence to Hamas operatives in Turkey. Authorities have only identified the suspects by their initials but said they identified with Hamas ideology and planned to carry out a cyber-attack against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The main suspect worked as a software engineer for an Israeli communications firm and met Hamas operatives in Turkey multiple times to transfer sensitive information about Israeli communications infrastructure.

Expert Analysis

“Despite warming relations with Israel, Ankara continues to turn a blind eye to Hamas’ activity in the country. The organization is using Turkey as a hub to circumvent international sanctions and direct military operations against Israel. If Turkey is serious about improved relations with Israel, it must demonstrate it is making a genuine effort to curb Hamas activity within its borders.” – Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Connections to Turkey

The Hamas operatives who directed the lead suspect served under the command of Saleh al-Arouri, a U.S.-designated terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head. Al-Arouri was based in Istanbul for several years, from where he directed Hamas’ operations in the West Bank. In a 2014 video — filmed in Turkey — al-Arouri claimed that Hamas was responsible for the abduction and murder of three Jewish youths in the West Bank.

Hamas’ Cyber Capabilities

Hamas has conducted cyber operations before, but the terror organization formally announced the establishment of its cyber unit shortly after last month’s indictments. In 2018, the IDF announced that Hamas operatives were using fake identities to target Israeli soldiers. A British news outlet reported in 2020 that Hamas was carrying out cyberattacks from a base in Istanbul; Western intelligence confirmed the report.

A Source of Israel-Turkey Friction

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provided a haven for Hamas since it established a headquarters in Istanbul in 2014. After Israel-Turkey ties began warming last year, there have been reports that Turkey would no longer host Hamas militants. However, it is unclear if Erdogan has curtailed the Hamas presence. Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Erdogan in Ankara and urged Turkey’s president to banish Hamas. According to Israeli officials, Israel will keep the pressure on Ankara to end its policy of allowing Hamas to “support, plan, and fundraise” on Turkish soil for terror attacks against Israelis.

The U.S.-Designated Hamas Entities and Individuals in Turkey

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated several entities and individuals in Turkey that have been involved in generating funds for Hamas. Financial intermediaries such as Hisham Qafisheh founded several companies in Turkey with the aim of raising funds for Hamas. Qafisheh and other financial facilitators named by Treasury took advantage of their senior positions in several Turkish-based companies and other businesses abroad to launder funds for Hamas.

Related Analysis

Turkey Supports Hamas, Which Means an Alliance With Israel Isn’t Going To Happen,” By Jonathan Schanzer

Turkey’s wooing of Israel may lead to Hamas ouster,” By Enia Krivine

Issues:

Israel Palestinian Politics Turkey