Listening to Israel, Turkey expels Hamas members

Dozens have reportedly been deported in last few months and others have not been allowed to return.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Turkey is expelling Hamas operatives as a result of its warming ties with Israel.

“Dozens of people identified with Hamas in various circles have been deported [from Turkey],” a Palestinian official told Israel Hayom.

“Turkey asked them to leave, and it actually happened in the last few months,” he said, noting that “some” of the targets had ties to Hamas’ military wing.

The official blamed Israel for the turnaround, which Jerusalem had been requesting for years. Hamas operatives have long been known to have orchestrated deadly attacks in the Jewish state from their homes in Istanbul.

“The Israelis gave Turkey a list of Hamas members and information about involvement of some of them in ‘military’ [terrorist] activity. In response, the Turks contacted Hamas and told them, ‘You promised you wouldn’t do anything like that here, so now you need to leave,'” he said.

According to the Al-Monitor Arab language news website, upon Israel’s request Ankara expelled Saleh al-Arouri, one of Hamas’ most senior officials, either in February or a little earlier, although he had lived in Turkey for years.

Al-Arouri is Hamas’ deputy political bureau head and founder of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Last August he was elected as Hamas head of Judea and Samaria. In November, the Shin Bet arrested a cell of over 50 operatives he led who had gathered explosives and were planning attacks in the country. The security service charged that al-Arouri offered a $1 million prize if they successfully kidnapped an Israeli.

Ankara suddenly accused al-Arouri of planning and supporting terrorist acts against Israel and told him to leave, Am-Monitor reported.

In addition, Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar reported Tuesday that some Turkey-based Hamas operatives who had left the country were being told they could not return.

Turkish paper Hurriyet reported back in February that Turkish officials had told Hamas that members of its military wing “will not stay in Turkey” and that it “will not provide military aid to the movement.” Political activity of the terrorist group would not be affected, however, the paper said.

The flurry of anti-Hamas activity coincides with Turkey’s recent efforts at warming ties with Israel, which many see as a reaction to Ankara’s poor economic situation. Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited the country on March 9, the first time since 2007 that an Israeli president came on an official trip to Turkey.

Among all the issues he raised in his meeting with President Recep Erdogan, Herzog asked him to deport Hamas leaders from the country.

Hamas strongly condemned the visit, albeit without mentioning Turkey’s name. On the day of his arrival, the terror group released a statement saying it was “greatly concerned” about “the visits of officials and leaders of the Zionist entity to several Arab and Islamic countries.

According to Al-Monitor, Turkey hosts the most Hamas leaders and members outside the Gaza Strip. Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh and former chief Khaled Mashaal have been frequent visitors, and in 2020, several top Hamas officials were even granted Turkish citizenship.

Turkey’s ruling party and Hamas are ideological soulmates, both being followers of the Muslim Brotherhood.