Turkey detains 34 people suspected of ties to Israel's Mossad
Turkish authorities have detained 34 people suspected of being linked to Israel's Mossad intelligence service and of targeting Palestinians living in Turkey, a senior Turkish official said on Tuesday, adding Mossad also recruited members in the country.
Last month, Turkish officials warned Israel of "serious consequences" if it tried to hunt down members of the militant group Hamas living outside Palestinian territories, including in Turkey. President Tayyip Erdogan warned that would be a mistake.
Turkey, unlike most of its Western allies and some Arab nations, does not classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
Asked about the arrests, Israeli Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment.
The official said police raided locations in eight provinces as part of an investigation carried out by the MIT intelligence agency and the Istanbul prosecutor's counter-terrorism bureau.
"The Israeli Intelligence Service is recruiting personnel to be used in acts against Palestinians residing in our country and their families," the official said, adding it used job postings on social media to establish contact and later used encrypted messaging platforms to maintain communications with contacts.
"It uses intermediaries/live couriers for payments to be made to its contacts. It tries to lose trace of the money by using cryptocurrency and a [money] transfer system," the person said, adding Turkey's operations against people linked to Mossad would continue.
Earlier, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said the suspects were detained in 57 locations, including in Istanbul, as part of an operation dubbed "Operation Mole", adding they were believed to be aiming to identify, monitor, assault and kidnap foreign nationals living in Turkey.
The official said the suspects were also spreading fake news and disinformation, carrying out robberies and blackmail for the Israeli intelligence. Mossad arranged meetings and training for the suspects abroad, the person added.
Turkey has harshly criticised Israel for its bombardment of Gaza in its war with Hamas, which has so far killed 22,185 Palestinians, with Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly exchanging barbs last week.
Yerlikaya said authorities had also found large amounts of foreign currency, including around 150,000 euros ($165,100), an unregistered firearm, and digital materials during the raids.
He shared footage of the operations showing police raiding homes, handcuffing suspects, and putting them in police vehicles.