Hamas planned terror cell in Turkey to kidnap Israelis

Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation and the Nato country hosts members of the group
Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation and the Nato country hosts members of the group - Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times

Hamas planned to set up a base in Turkey from which to carry out sabotage and assassinations, according to documents reportedly found by the Israeli army in Gaza.

The papers, shown to The Times, were discovered in the home of Hamza Abu Shanab, chief of staff to Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, the Israeli military said.

The files detail an effort by Hamas to set up teams outside its territory in the wake of Israeli moves to tighten control over the Gaza Strip.

The plans included establishing “a security branch abroad which will be capable of carrying out intelligence and military operations in the future”.

The files, which The Telegraph cannot independently confirm, also allegedly described a three-year plan to set up military cells and safe houses abroad to work on “sabotage and assassination.”

Assassination targets supposedly included agents in Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, as well as “influential Israelis”.

It is unclear whether Turkish authorities were informed of the plans or would have allowed them to proceed.

Turkey has a nuanced stance on Hamas. Unlike many other members of Nato, it does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation and the country hosts members of the group.

Ankara maintains that Hamas has not carried out terrorist activities in the country.

Instead, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, has repeatedly declared Hamas a “liberation movement” fighting for its people and homeland.

He and other Turkish officials have continually criticised Israel, as well as its allies in the West, as the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 35,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Mr Erdogan said on Sunday that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, “has reached a level that would make Hitler jealous with his genocidal methods”.

He also said that more than 1,000 members of Hamas were being treated in hospitals across Turkey as the fighting in Gaza entered its eighth month.

In April, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader who is based in Qatar, flew to Istanbul to meet Mr Erdogan. The visit was Mr Haniyeh’s first to Turkey since the Israel-Hamas war broke out last October.

Just a few days ago, Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish intelligence chief, met Mr Haniyeh in the emirate.

Turkey recently announced it would cut trade ties with Israel, but it appears some imports and exports have continued.

Last autumn, Turkey and Israel recalled their respective ambassadors in a diplomatic row over the war in Gaza.

In Turkey, it’s politically strategic for Mr Erdogan to oppose Israel and support Palestine, with polls showing a large majority share those views in a country that is otherwise deeply divided.

Hamas, along with its security apparatus, ruled Gaza with an iron fist before the war began.

On Monday, a batch of internal Hamas documents seen by the New York Times revealed the scope of the General Security Service.

It used a network of informants to keep tabs on Palestinians publicly criticising Hamas, as well as the activities of local and foreign journalists.

The Turkish embassy in the UK did not immediately respond to a request for comment.