Arrest of Gaza manager exposes Hamas’s Turkish connection

Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza Strip’s Hamas premier, left, and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan salute the lawmakers and supporters of Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party at the Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, January 3, 2012 (photo credit: AP)
Even though Jerusalem and Ankara restored ties, organizations in Turkey continue to assist the Islamist terror group’s efforts to attack Israel

By Avi Issacharoff | The Times of Israel

The arrest and interrogation of Muhammad Murtaja, the manager of the Gaza branch of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), should set off alarm bells in Israel.

Murtaja was arrested last month on suspicion that he was working on behalf of Hamas, the Shin Bet announced on Tuesday. The 40-year-old Murtaja was arrested as he attempted to travel from Gaza to Turkey.

The arrest exposes deep ties between Hamas and organizations in Turkey, which is of particular concern as Jerusalem and Ankara have just restored relations after years of acrimony.

According to the indictment, there is a deep suspicion that someone residing in Turkey not only sought to use Murtaja to transfer money to the Hamas terror group, but also to give the organization’s military wing sensitive military intelligence concerning Israel.

Most of the indictment focuses on the blatant way in which Murtaja and his associates from Hamas’ military wing, the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, shamelessly sought to profit from aid that was meant to go to impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip.

Murtaja’s first scheme involved food packages bought with money given to him by TIKA which were supposed to be distributed to needy families in Gaza. He instead handed over some 7,000 of these 14,000 packages to Hamas operatives.

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