Turkey grants citizenship to Hamas members

Militants of the Palestinian group gain freedom of movement to carry out terrorist attacks thanks to their new status
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh during a meeting in Istanbul in February

PHOTO/AP  -   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh during a meeting in Istanbul in February

Turkey is granting citizenship to senior members of a Hamas terrorist cell based in Istanbul, according to documentary evidence accessed by the British daily The Telegraph. Turkish identity documents consulted by the newspaper show that at least one of the 12 core members of the Palestinian organization, which uses Turkey as a base for its operations, has been granted Turkish citizenship and an 11-digit identity number. In addition, one source has reported that at least seven of these 12 militants have received Turkish passports and five others are in the process of receiving them. Thanks to this new status, terrorists are gaining freedom of movement to carry out attacks. 

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union. It has also been banned in Britain. Hamas' aim is to destroy Israel and establish an Islamic state. Despite this, Turkey insists that it is a legitimate political movement that has been democratically elected in the Gaza Strip.

A high-level security source consulted by The Telegraph warns of the danger of granting citizenship to Hamas members based in Istanbul. "They are actively raising funds and directing operatives to carry out further attacks," he said in statements to the British newspaper. "The Turkish government has given in to pressure from Hamas to obtain Turkish nationality. Now it has greater freedom of movement and this compromises the security of those countries that have included Hamas on their list of terrorist groups," the same source said. 

Líder de Hamás
ZUMA/MAHMOUD AJJOUR - Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks at a press conference in Gaza City

Zacharia Najib, one of the agents who oversaw a plot to assassinate the mayor of Jerusalem, is one of those who has been granted Turkish citizenship. Jihad Ya'amor and Hisham Hijaz, two senior Hamas officials, may also have been granted Turkish citizenship and passports. In some cases, the families of the operatives have been granted citizenship. The operatives are considered "active" and not retired, and are working to raise funds for Hamas and run its operations, according to sources consulted by The Telegraph. 

A Turkish government spokesman has refused to comment on the matter in response to questions from The Telegraph's correspondent and has indicated that these are unfounded allegations against Turkey by a foreign executive. A senior Hamas official has also denied the allegations, insisting that its members do not operate outside the Palestinian territories. 

Turkey's western allies have warned the country on numerous occasions about Hamas' activities on Turkish territory. Holders of Turkish passports can travel without a visa to Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Serbia. Turkey wants to extend the list of countries to travel without a visa to the European Union, where there are fears that Hamas is planning attacks against Israeli citizens

Miembros de Hamás
AFP/SAID KHATIB - Combatants of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement

Israel has repeatedly warned Turkey that Hamas is using its territory to plan attacks, but Ankara has taken no action, leading to accusations that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is turning a blind eye to terrorist activity. Turkey has denied that it is turning a blind eye to terrorism. Turkish support for Hamas has strained diplomatic relations with Israel, which recently warned that it was "extremely concerned" about the group's operations in Turkey

This new information comes after an investigation by The Telegraph newspaper which reported that Turkey is hosting important Hamas representatives on its territory and has allowed them to plan attacks from Istanbul, including a plan to assassinate the mayor of Jerusalem. Turkey has categorically denied these reports and has insisted that it does not allow Hamas members to plan attacks in its country

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is currently visiting Turkey, where he is scheduled to hold a series of meetings with senior figures, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two met in December last year in Istanbul. "We will continue to support our brothers in Palestine," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's President, at the time.