Even as Israel, Turkey Seek Warmer Ties, Ankara Broadcasts Allegations About Mossad Spy Network

In a detailed tale worthy of a Netflix series, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization alleges that it has exposed a network of 56 mostly Arab operatives who are working inside the country under Israeli supervision.

AP/Majdi Mohammed
Smoke rises during an Israeli military raid of the terrorist stronghold of Jenin at the occupied West Bank, July 3, 2023. AP/Majdi Mohammed

On the eve of a planned summit meeting between the Israeli and Turkish leaders, reportedly scheduled for later this month, Ankara is claiming to have exposed a network of Israeli spies in the country. 

In a detailed tale worthy of a Netflix series, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, known as MIT, alleges that it has exposed a network of 56 mostly Arab operatives who are working inside the country under supervision of the Israeli external security agency, Mossad.

The spy story, splashed all over Turkish front pages on Monday, is difficult to verify, as Jerusalem habitually declines comment on intelligence matters. Israeli sources tell the Sun that they are intrigued by the timing of the alleged exposure, as it happened just after Mossad said it uncovered a terror ring in Cyprus and on the same day that Israel launched a major anti-terrorism push in the northern West Bank, targeting groups with ties to Turkey. 

Ironically, Ankara is widely advertising the alleged bust of Mossad agents even as a major thaw of relations is under way between Israel and Turkey, which have been on a long collision course. According to various reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Erdogan plan to meet later in July, in a first such powwow since 2008. Last year, Mr. Erdogan hosted President Herzog of Israel. 

Following last week’s exposure of an Iranian-backed terrorist plan to hit Jewish targets in Cyprus, Israeli media reported that last month Mossad agents traveled to Iran, kidnapped the Cyprus plot’s mastermind, and brought him to Israel. The group of would-be saboteurs traveled to the Greek side from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, where they were arrested by Cypriot police on a tip from Israel.  

That could be the background that led to Turkey’s new exposures. The Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah is one outlet reporting extensive details of the MIT discovery of what it calls “a ‘ghost’ cell of 56 operatives spying on non-Turkish nationals in the country on behalf of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.”

Seven people were arrested, according to MIT, and confessed to have worked for Mossad. They were allegedly part of nine networks that were supervised by nine Tel Aviv-based Mossad agents and were dispatched throughout the world.

The spy ring reportedly included mostly Arab nationals from around the Mideast. They allegedly used sophisticated electronic methods to surveil members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups based in Turkey and in countries like Lebanon and Syria. They communicated by disposable phones and in coded messages on obscure websites. 

“A Mossad spy codenamed ‘Shirin Alayan,’ whose real identity MIT was unable to determine, used a German phone line to instruct a Palestinian named ‘Khaled Nijim’ to set up bogus news platforms like najarland.com, almeshar.com, nasrin-news.com and hresource.co.uk.,” according to Sabah. 

The report also identifies a 24-year-old Indian national, Priyanshi Patel Kulhari, a chief at a Tel Aviv-based company, Cyberintelligence International Private Ltd., as someone who allegedly trained the Istanbul unit of the spy ring in cyber capabilities. He has “determined how to infiltrate targeted phones and which news articles would be pushed for the target to click,” according to Sabah. 

Members of the ring were allegedly dispatched to Beirut and Damascus to pinpoint Hezbollah sites in Lebanon and Syria for attacks by Israeli drones. Others operated in and trained in places as far afield as Bangkok. Some were charged with identifying Hamas-related targets at Istanbul.

Unlike Israel, America, and most of Europe, Turkey does not designate groups like Hamas as terrorists. Hamas’s second in command, Saleh Arouri, has long resided in the country and reportedly still maintains a base there. 

Yet, last month Mr. Netanyahu’s government announced a plan to develop a gas field in the Mediterranean across from Gaza, which would serve the Palestinians in the Hamas-held strip. Turkey would operate the project. Ankara has also long lobbied to lay down an underwater pipeline between Israeli gas fields in the Mediterranean and Europe through Turkey. Such a project would be a bonanza for the country’s ailing economy.

“While I can’t tell whether the spy ring story is true, its timing is curious,” one Israeli source who declined to be identified told the Sun. “It seems to me that it was widely advertised by Ankara for internal consumption. The message the wanted to convey to their public is, ‘We’re no patsies of the Mossad.’” 

The New York Sun

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