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2 Jan, 2024 16:21

US ally warns Israel of 'serious consequences' for spying

The Jewish state has in turn pledged to hunt down Hamas officials far outside its own borders
US ally warns Israel of 'serious consequences' for spying

Türkiye arrested 33 people suspected of spying for Israel on Tuesday and is reportedly pursuing another 13 believed to be involved with the West Jerusalem's Mossad intelligence agency, according to Anadolu Agency. 

The detained individuals, who were not named in the report, are believed to have been plotting to conduct “reconnaissance” work including “pursuing, assaulting and kidnapping” foreign nationals living in Türkiye on behalf of Israel. 

Ronen Bar, director of the Israeli Shin Bet intelligence agency, warned last month that his officers planned to hunt down Hamas operatives “everywhere, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Türkiye, in Qatar.”

It will take a few years but we will be there to do it,” Bar said in a recording aired by Israeli state broadcaster Kan. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Israel that it would face “serious consequences” if it continued attempting to attack Hamas officials in his country. 

While Türkiye and Israel had begun to normalize ties before war was declared on Hamas and Gaza was bombed with unprecedented intensity, both countries have since withdrawn ambassadors from each other’s territory.

Last week, Erdogan condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “worse than Hitler,” declaring that “what Netanyahu is doing [in Gaza] is no less than what Hitler did,” only that the Israeli leader was “richer” than the Nazi leader.

He takes support from the West, he receives all kinds of support from the US, and with all that support, 20,000 Gazans have been killed,” Erdogan said. That number has since increased to 21,800, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. 

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and its leaders following the October 7 attack by the militant group that left 1,200 Israelis dead and saw more than 200 others taken prisoner. 

Critics of the military operation that followed have pointed to the high civilian death toll, admissions by military officials that civilian infrastructure had been deliberately targeted, and leaked government documents describing plans to move the entire Palestinian population out of Gaza as proof that it is Palestinian civil society that is being targeted, rather than the militant group that governs the territory.

Many high-ranking Hamas officials reside or spend significant time outside Gaza and the West Bank, including in Türkiye, where the group has an office in Istanbul. Erdogan has said the militant group is “defending its lands” and fighting for the liberation of Palestinians.