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In Turkey, 34 people arrested suspected of spying for Israel | Middle East, the eternal conflict

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Thousands of Turks demonstrated on January 1 in Istanbul in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. (Archive photo)

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Thirty-four people suspected of spying for Israel were arrested in Turkey, accused in particular of preparing kidnappings, Turkish authorities announced on Tuesday.

The suspects, arrested in several provinces of the country, are suspected of having spied on foreign nationals residing in Turkey on behalf of the Israeli secret services, said the official Anadolu news agency.

Twelve other suspects, accused of the same facts, are wanted, according to the Istanbul prosecutor's office.

A security source told the x27;AFP that the suspects, most of them foreign nationals, were recruited as part of operations targeting Palestinians and their families.

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya claimed on the social network X that Israeli intelligence services were preparing the aggression or kidnapping of foreign nationals, without specifying their nationality. >

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Executives of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas have long found refuge in Istanbul, but the Turkish authorities asked them to leave Turkey after the attack carried out on October 7 from the Gaza Strip on Israeli soil, which killed around 1,140 dead, most of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on the latest official Israeli figures.

However, Hamas executives have since visited Turkey, notably to meet senior Turkish officials.

At the beginning of December, President Erdogan had warned Israel to serious consequences if members of the Palestinian movement – which Israel wishes to destroy – were targeted on Turkish soil.

Since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in early October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a traditional ally of the Palestinian cause, has increased his invectives against Israel.

Mr. Erdogan, who opened a new era in relations with Israel in 2022 after a decade of estrangement, estimated on Wednesday that there was no difference between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolf Hitler. On Tuesday, the Turkish head of state denounced an attempted sabotage against Turkey and its interests. We're going to stop this, he said.

Mr. Erdogan rejected calls from the US administration urging Turkey to break ties with Hamas.

The Turkish president has repeatedly described Israel as a terrorist state, believing that Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the European Union and many countries including the United States, was a group of liberators who protect their land.

Major anti-Israel demonstrations, encouraged by the Turkish government, have taken place across the country since early October. In mid-October, Israel asked its nationals and diplomats stationed in Turkey to leave the country as a security measure.

The Turkish police had already arrested in 2021 and 2022 several dozen individuals suspected of spying on Palestinians residing in Turkey on behalf of the Israeli intelligence services.

In spring 2022, Israeli media reported attempted attacks against Israeli tourists in Istanbul, foiled by the cooperation of Turkish and Israeli services. Eight people, including Iranians, were subsequently arrested by Turkish police.

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