November 14, 2023 | Washington Examiner

Targeting Jihad Yaghmour and the Hamas operation in Turkey

November 14, 2023 | Washington Examiner

Targeting Jihad Yaghmour and the Hamas operation in Turkey

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to participate in an emergency summit designed to address the war in Gaza. Erdogan has emerged as one of the most vociferous pro-Hamas voices since the Palestinian terrorist organization carried out a mass slaughter of Israelis on Oct. 7.

While Erdogan continues to vent his rage over the Israeli response to the Hamas attack, he has obscured one important fact. Over the last decade, Turkey has become a crucial external headquarters for Hamas, with at least 14 figures acting for or on behalf of the terrorist group in Istanbul. One of the most important is Jihad Yaghmour. He has been identified as a “liaison to the Turkish government and the Turkish Intelligence Service [MIT].”

Yaghmour, 56, is originally from Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem. He was arrested on Oct. 13, 1994, for the abduction and murder of an Israeli soldier. He and other members of Hamas dressed up as religious Jews, picked up Nahshon Wachsman in a car, then forced him to record a message directed at then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, asking him to free Palestinian prisoners in exchange for his life. Yaghmour was tried and convicted by an Israeli court for Wachsman’s subsequent murder.

In 2011, he was released from prison and allowed to reside in Turkey as part of a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel involving captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In return for Hamas agreeing to release Shalit, Israel released 1,000 Hamas prisoners, some of whom took up residence in Turkey. Yaghmour is among them. Over the last decade, Yaghmour has been “involved in covert activities, mainly the handling of terrorist squads in Judea and Samaria [West Bank].” Over the last year and a half, there have been nearly 3,000 acts of violence reported there.

Yaghmour has been able to coordinate some of this through a nongovernmental organization named “Association of Jerusalem and Our History.” In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel, the organization changed its name to “Al Aqsa Flood” — the same name Hamas gave to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. As president of KUTAD, Yaghmour has used the organization to host high-profile Hamas leaders for public speaker events in Turkey, including Saleh al-Arouri (a high-profile military and political Hamas figure wanted by the State Department) and Ismail Haniyeh (a top Hamas leader based in Qatar).

Additionally, Yaghmour has also used KUTAD to raise funds for Hamas. In 2020, a U.S. district court ruled that a Turkish (subsidiary of a foreign) bank, Kuveyt Turk Bank, “helped finance the Hamas.” Yaghmour was among the individuals identified in this ruling for providing financing for a Hamas terrorist attack that killed Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in the West Bank in 2015.

Yaghmour has operated rather openly in Turkey over the years. In 2019, “he accompanied a Hamas delegation headed by Ismail Haniyeh that visited Turkey and, that month, met with the deputy chair for foreign affairs of the Justice and Development Party [AKP].” As part of its arrangement with the terrorist group, Ankara has provided Turkish passports and residency to some of the Hamas figures based in the country. It is unclear whether Yaghmour is among them.

When the war in Gaza is over, Turkey will have a lot of explaining to do. In July, Israeli authorities seized 16 tons of explosive material that originated in Turkey and were bound for Gaza, apparently intended for Hamas rockets. Senior Hamas figures continue to move in and out of the country.

On Oct. 18, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that it was “taking swift and decisive action to target Hamas’s financiers and facilitators following its brutal and unconscionable massacre of Israeli civilians, including children.” The Turkish contingent in Turkey should be among those targeted for sanctions. And Yaghmour should be foremost among them.

Sinan Ciddi is a nonresident senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research.


Israel Israel at War Sanctions and Illicit Finance Turkey