Turkey is claiming to have arrested dozens of people accused of spying for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency Tuesday, with an official alleging that they were plotting the “assault and kidnapping” of foreign nationals residing on Turkish soil, reports say.
The development is the latest escalation in tensions between the two countries during the Israel-Hamas war and comes about a week after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.
“We will never allow espionage activities carried out against the national unity and solidarity of our country,” Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya wrote on X, adding that officials in Turkey “determined that the Israeli Intelligence Service aimed to carry out tactical tasks such as reconnaissance, pursuit, assault, and kidnapping against foreign nationals residing in our country.”
“During the searches carried out during the operation; 143,830 euros, 23,680 dollars, various amounts of cash from different countries, 1 unlicensed gun, a large number of cartridges and digital materials were seized,” Yerlikaya also said.
A total of 33 people were taken into custody during “Operation Mole” after police raided 57 locations in eight provinces, Reuters reported, citing Yerlikaya.
The news agency added that the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the reported arrests.
Turkish state media also reported that authorities are trying to track down 13 other individuals as part of the investigation, according to Reuters.
Ronen Bar, who leads Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, reportedly said in a recording aired by Israel’s public broadcaster Kan in early December that Israel would hunt down Hamas terrorists in countries such as Turkey.
“We will do this everywhere, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar. It will take a few years, but we will be there to do it,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
However, the next day, the Jerusalem Post quoted a Turkish intelligence official saying that following the airing of Bar’s remarks, “Necessary warnings were made to the interlocutors based on the news of Israeli officials’ statements, and it was expressed to Israel that [such an act] would have serious consequences.”