8 arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel in Turkey’s latest counter-intelligence operation

8 arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel in Turkey’s latest counter-intelligence operation

Date:

On Friday, April 5, Turkish authorities arrested 8 people in Istanbul suspected of spying for Israel in their latest counter-intelligence operation, Köstebek-3 (Mole-3).

Coming as the result of inter-agency cooperation between the Istanbul Police’s Anti-Terrorism Unit in coordination with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Presidency of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), and the Directorate General of Security Intelligence and Counterterrorism (EGM), the recent operation follows in the wake of previous domestic counterintelligence actions against suspected Mossad agents and informants.

The individuals were accused of collecting and transferring information and documents about individuals and companies in Turkey to Israel’s intelligence services:

Turkey and Hamas

Turkey which does not regard Hamas as a terrorist organization has in the recent past hosted the group’s leadership in Istanbul where Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas had a trilateral meeting with President Erdogan in an attempt to bridge the intra-Palestinian rift between Hamas and Fatah since “Hamas’s humiliating defeat of Fatah” and its complete seizure of the Gaza Strip.

Since 2014, Haniyeh and his son have reportedly lived part-time in Turkey and held Turkish passports. Notably, Saleh al-Arouri, Hamas’s deputy leader killed in Israeli drone strike in Beirut on January 2 had also established a bureau in the country until he was ultimately driven out in 2015.

A few weeks prior to the October 7 attack, i24News had reported that Israeli customs authorities had discovered 16 tons of ammonium chloride, a dual-use chemical “known to be used by the terrorist organization in Gaza for the process of manufacturing the rockets that are eventually launched towards the State of Israel”, according to a statement by the Israel Tax Authority.

More damningly, footage in the aftermath of Hamas’s cross-border massacre shows Ismail Haniyeh, at the group’s headquarters in Turkey, celebrating the attacks:

 

Shortly after, Haniyeh was reportedly asked to leave the country, something that the Turkish government has officially denied.

President Erdogan has not condemned the October 7 attack and has since maintained that Hamas “is not a terrorist organization, but a group of freedom and mujahideen [warriors] who are striving to protect their lands and their citizens”.

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (Milli Istihbarat Teskilati) has been tasked with systematically rooting out Mossad operators and informants, seeking to disrupt Israeli covert action inside Turkey and also weaponize its arrests as propaganda victories against the Jewish state.

In an event marking the 97th anniversary of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) on January 10, President Erdogan boasted of disrupting Israeli intelligence networks in Turkey:

“We are aware that plots of some circles were derailed thanks to our country’s stand against crises in our region, particularly against massacres in Gaza”.

“These espionage activities show how disturbed they are. Israel is confounded by how we rounded up those suspects. But wait, this is just a first step. You will recognize what Türkiye is capable of soon”.

How it Begun

Operation Mole 1 came in the wake of statements made by Shin Bet chief, Ronen Bar, who declared that Israel was “determined to kill Hamas leaders all over the world, including Qatar, Türkiye, and Lebanon, even if it takes years”. Additionally, a Wall Street Journal report on December 1 had earlier claimed that Israel’s intelligence services were already planning “to kill Hamas leaders around the world when the nation’s war in the Gaza Strip winds down”.

Turkey responded by warning against any Israeli action against Hamas, with unnamed officials speaking to the Anadolu state news outlet asserting that “no foreign intelligence service would be allowed to carry out such operations on the soil of the Republic of Türkiye”.

It took place in 8 provinces in Istanbul on January 2 and resulted in 33 arrests of Israeli agents accused of plotting to act against “foreign nationals” residing in Turkey, according to Interior Minister, Ali Yerlikaya:

 

Konstantinos K
Konstantinos Khttps://substack.com/@polity21hq
Konstantinos is postgraduate student, researcher and founder of Polity21. He writes primarily on Greek-Turkish relations, conflict and power politics in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. Academic and journalistic interests also include among others Astropolitics, Remote Warfare and U.S. Grand Strategy.
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