ANKARA: Turkish authorities continue their operations against international espionage activities across the country.
In total 33 suspects were detained early on Tuesday, Jan. 2, as part of an operation against individuals suspected of engaging in “espionage” on behalf of the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad.
The suspects were based in Istanbul and eight other provinces.
The operation, codenamed “Taupe,” was conducted over an investigation launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Department of Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigations to examine ongoing foreign espionage activities on Turkish soil.
During the investigation, it was determined that Mossad aimed to conduct activities such as reconnaissance, surveillance, assault, and abduction of foreign nationals residing in Turkiye for humanitarian reasons.
The operation targeted 46 key suspects, with 13 people still at large.
Turkiye’s Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced that more than €143,000 ($157,300), more than $23,000 and various other amounts of cash in different currencies were seized from the suspects, as well as an unlicensed gun, munitions and digital material captured during the operations.
“Our fight against organized crime organizations and spies that disturb the peace of our families will continue with determination and determination,” Yerlikaya posted on his official X account.
Yerlikaya has stepped up his ministry’s campaign against illegal networks in the country since his appointment, with a number of smugglers, drug and spy networks, including foreign nationals that were on Interpol’s red notice list, since being revealed.
In December, Israeli security chief Ronen Bar pledged to pursue Hamas leaders overseas. In a recording aired by Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, Bar stated that Israel intends to wipe out Hamas leaders in Qatar, Lebanon, and Turkiye.
Just after the bombshell release, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Israeli authorities have been informed of the serious consequences that “such illegal operations on Turkish territory would generate.”
Similarly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned in December that Turkiye would not tolerate any Israeli security operations on its soil and he fiercely warned that it could undermine bilateral relations.
“If Israel dares to take such a step on Turkish soil, it will pay such a great price that it will not be able to recover from it,” he said.
Experts underline that the arrests may coincide with the escalating tensions between Turkiye and Israel and a heightened security situations.
Colin P. Clarke, director of research at the Soufan Group, thinks that the timing of the arrests against alleged Israeli spies or collaborators is significant.
“The timing is key, because the arrests come at a time of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, stemming from Erdogan’s critiques of the Israeli war in Gaza,” he told Arab News.
“Erdogan has been vocal about what he sees as Israeli overreach and has lambasted the Benjamin Netanyahu government for what he sees as the wanton slaughter of civilians,” Clarke added.
He said he thought Tuesday’s operation in Turkiye was the result of a few different factors.
“One, the Israelis are now overturning every possible rock looking for intelligence related to Hamas. Turkiye is now likely increasing surveillance and counterintelligence assets to monitor Israel’s security services. And the entire conflict in Gaza has the region on edge, so we should expect to see similar incidents throughout the region, including more in Turkiye in the near future,” he said.
On the same day as the countrywide arrests, the US Consulate in Adana announced the resumption of its services amidst tense Turkiye-Israel relations starting from Jan. 4.
In the meantime, the cross-border operations of Turkish authorities also continue to hunt down Daesh members in order to boost domestic security in the country. On Tuedsay, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization captured Abdullah Al-Jundi, codenamed Hattab Al-Muhajir, a Daesh ringleader who was allegedly plotting a major attack against Turkish security forces in Syria.
Last month, Turkish police also arrested over 300 people for suspected links to Daesh during nationwide raids.