Turkey Detains 33 People Suspected of Spying for Israel

People demonstrate next to Yeni Cami (New Mosque) to show solidarity with Palestinians amid the ongoing war in Gaza, in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. Tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul to rally against the war in Israel on the first day of the new year. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Turkish authorities have detained 33 people suspected of spying for Israel, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported on Tuesday.

Authorities were still searching for 13 others believed to have links to Israel’s Mossad security service, the Anadolu Agency reported.

The suspects were detained in raids in Istanbul and seven other provinces for allegedly planning to carry out activities that included “reconnaissance” and “pursuing, assaulting and kidnapping” foreign nationals living in Turkey, the agency reported.

The suspects were allegedly recruited to spy on Palestinians residing in Turkey as well as Israeli activists opposed to their government, Anadolu said. Israeli officials allegedly contacted the suspects via social media, it said.

The report comes weeks after the head of Israel’s domestic security agency, Shin Bet, said in an audio recording that his organization is prepared to destroy Hamas “in every place,” including in Lebanon, Turkey and Qatar.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel of “serious consequences” if it pressed ahead with its threat to attack Hamas officials on Turkish soil.

Turkey and Israel had normalized ties in 2022 by reappointing ambassadors following years of tensions. But those ties quickly deteriorated after the Israel-Hamas war, with Ankara becoming one of the strongest critics of Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

Israel initially withdrew its diplomats from Turkey over security concerns and later announced it was recalling its diplomats for political reasons, citing “increasingly harsh statements” from Turkish officials. Turkey also pulled out its ambassador from Israel.

Erdogan’s reaction to the Israel-Hamas war was initially fairly muted. But the Turkish leader has since intensified his criticism of Israel, describing its actions in Gaza as verging on “genocide.” He has called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be prosecuted for “war crimes” and compared him to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Erdogan, whose government has hosted several Hamas officials in the past, has also said the militant group — considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union — is fighting for the liberation of its lands and people.

– AP News

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