A known terrorist sought by the U.S. was among the Hamas members who met with the Turkish leader.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
A senior Israeli diplomat slammed Turkey Wednesday for issuing passports to a dozen Hamas members that will allow them to easily move around the world to conduct terrorist activities.
Israel’s charge d’affaires Roey Gilad told Reuters that Israel informed Turkey last year that Hamas was carrying out “terror-related activity” in Istanbul.
However, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hosted the Hamas leadership twice this year, the latest being a meeting last weekend in Istanbul.
Gilad said the Turkish government was giving citizenship and passports to Hamas members that would allow them to use Turkey as a base of operations, but he didn’t expect any response to Israel’s formal complaints.
“Judging by the last experience we had by presenting a well-based portfolio to the government… and getting no reply, I must say I don’t have high hopes that something will be done this time,” Gilad told Reuters.
Gilad posted a picture of Erdogan meeting with the Hamas leadership last weekend and pointed out Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri sitting near the Turkish leader.
“US has designated him a senior terrorist and has a $5m bounty on his head but Erdogan hosts him openly,” Gilad tweeted.
The U.S. State Department reacted angrily to the meeting, slamming Erdogan for hosting known terrorists.
“The United States strongly objects to Turkish President Erdogan hosting two Hamas leaders in Istanbul on August 22. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU and both officials hosted by President Erdogan are Specially Designated Global Terrorists,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Ortagus said there was a reward out for information on one of the Hamas terrorists at the meeting who is wanted “for his involvement in multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings.”
“President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza,” Ortagus said.
Last week the Telegraph in London reported that it received copies of Turkish documents confirming that 12 members of a Hamas terror cell had either received Turkish citizenship and passports or were in the process of getting them.
Both the U.S. and U.K. have listed Hamas as a terrorist group, while Turkey, despite being a NATO member, calls it a legitimate political movement and provides it with assistance and shelter.
“These are not foot soldiers but the most senior Hamas operatives outside of Gaza. [They] are actively raising funds and directing operatives to carry out attacks in the present day,” an unnamed source told the Telegraph.
“The Turkish Government gave in to pressure by Hamas to grant citizenship to its operatives, thereby allowing them to travel more freely, endangering other countries that have listed Hamas as a terror group,” the source said.