Turkish intelligence announced it had broken up three different foreign spy rings operating on its territory this week. The first was a cell composed of Palestinian agents from the PA security service. Fifteen men working for PA General Intelligence Services (GIS) chief, Majed Faraj, were tasked with spying on Palestinian students and activists living in Turkey:
The Turkish TRT Haber news reported that Palestinian and Syrian students were targeted by the cells, with a focus on students receiving training in the defense industry, as well as information on associations and organizations.
…The goal of the GIS spies was to prepare for assassination operations against leading Palestinian figures in Turkey, according to Shehab. The report claimed that Israel was reluctant to carry out operations itself in Turkey due to concerns of a reaction by Turkish President Erdogan.
They were funded by the Mossad and the Israeli spy agency tasked them with their mission (though the orders may have come via their Palestinian commander).
Though it’s well known that the PA collaborates with Israeli security services inside Palestine, this is the first time when such collaboration is known on foreign soil. The PA security agents were essentially acting as cut-outs for the Israelis. It indicates that the PA security services are essentially an extension of Israel’s intelligence agencies: the Shin Bet and Mossad. It also indicates that the Palestinian national movement as a whole has been well and truly compromised by Israel. Instead of working for the interests of Palestine, the PA and its intelligence body works on behalf of the Israeli oppressor.
Ben Caspit offered his usual “nothing to see here move on” response to the story, quoting an ex-Mossad official:
A former senior Mossad official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Israel is not spying on Turkey, the two countries are not at war and Turkey is not on our list of so-called essential information targets.”
The truth is that he can say, disingenuously, that the Mossad isn’t spying on Turkey because, strictly speaking, it isn’t. But the PA is doing it’s dirty work. Which makes the statement an exercise in dissembling.
MK Ram Ben Barak, a former deputy chief of Mossad, chairs the Knesset security and foreign affairs committee and, according to Yossi Melman, gave the most explicit confirmation yet of Mossad involvement, remarking in an interview that there is substance to the allegation:
Reading between the lines, the Mossad recruited Palestinian students from Gaza and the West Bank who traveled to study in Turkey as cover for an effort to identify those Palestinians studying fields with military applications. This would include engineering, physics and chemistry–fields in which Hamas can improve its capabilities in rocket and drone development for example.
Though every intelligence agency at times faces failure…the Mossad must conduct a comprehensive investigaion to clarify why the spy ring was caught and prevent similar incidents.
This failed plot indicates how far the Mossad was willing to go in pursuit of wanted senior Hamas leaders like Saleh al-Arouri, who have taken refuge in Turkey. Though it could not directly murder Arouri, it was willing to hire Palestinians to do the job. The Mossad clearly made a calculation that relations were already so bad between Israel and Turkey that the outraged response of the Erdogan regime to such a murder, could not make them much worse than they already were. It may have also intended such an operation to further embarrass the Turkish Islamist leader, after the Saudi assassination in Istanbul of dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Permitting the murders of two noted figures inside Turkey would expose, presumably, the flaws in its counter-terror and counter-intelligence apparatus.
The second foreign cell was a group of Russians who were targeting Chechen dissidents opposed to the brutal rule of Kadyrov. He is responsible for the murder of a number of prominent Chechens both in the Middle East and in Germany. He was also blamed for the assassination of Putin rival, Boris Nemtsov in the heart of Moscow.
Finally, an Iranian hit squad was operating in Iran and targeting a former Iranian helicopter pilot who refused to participate in Iran’s war in Syria. Iranian intelligence has killed a number of such dissidents, including one in Turkey two years ago. An Iranian diplomat was also expelled from France for plotting an attack on MeK figures in that country.
In an unrelated matter, the Mossad kidnapped a retired Iranian general in Syria, who it believed had information about the whereabouts of captured Israeli airman, Ron Arad. It then spirited him out of Syria and brought him to an African country (Rwanda’s tyrant, Paul Kagame, is a close friend of Israel)., where he was questioned by Shabak interrogators. They discovered that he did not have any pertinent information about Arad and was released.
There was dissension inside the cabinet, as liberal members decried the operation as a failure and criticized PM Bennett for trumpeting it as his own success. Not to mention that the typically aggressive Mossad calculations could have further antagonized Iran and Syria had anything untoward happened to the general. The Mossad, of course, celebrated it as a success, proving once again that its long arm could seize anyone, anywhere in the interest of protecting the honor of Israel and its fighters.
An Israeli security source repeated to me the old joke: “the operation was a success, but the patient died.” By which he meant that while it had succeeded in kidnapping the Iranian, the Mossad failed to obtain any useful intelligence. Regardless of the posturing, the kidnapping was a failure and whatever source led them to believe the general had information, misled them.