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Turkey’s anti-Mossad operation 'seriously surprised' Israel, Erdogan boasts

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has boasted about the recent detention of individuals suspected of spying for Israel’s Mossad by the country’s intelligence service, saying the operation has “seriously surprised” Tel Aviv.

Erdogan made the remarks during a speech marking the 97th anniversary of the establishment of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in the capital Ankara on Wednesday, referring to the detention of 34 suspects in a coordinated operation in Istanbul and seven other provinces earlier this month.

“Our [intelligence] service, which unearthed the spy network [for Israel] in our country, has given the best response to those threatening us,” Erdogan said.

“Of course [the operation] seriously surprised Israel. But wait, these are the first steps. You will get to know Turkey very well," he added, hinting that new counterespionage operations against alleged Israeli spy networks could be underway.

On January 2, the Turkish police detained 34 people on charges of espionage for Israel’s Mossad spy agency, weeks after the Tel Aviv regime threatened to target members of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas living abroad, including in Turkey.  

The arrests came a month after Israel's Kan news network aired a recording in which Ronen Bar, the head of Israel's internal spy agency – known as Shin Bet - said Tel Aviv was determined to kill Hamas leaders “in every location” around the world.

At the time, Erdogan warned Israel of a “heavy price” if the Tel Aviv regime carried out its plot to target members of Hamas on Turkish soil.

On Friday, a Turkish court ruled that 15 of the suspects detained earlier in the month on charges of espionage activities for Mossad would remain in custody.

Of the 34 suspects, 26 were referred to the court with a request to be arrested for "political or military espionage.”

Eight suspects were also reportedly handed over to the provincial immigration department for deportation.

Turkish police have previously broken up spy networks targeting Palestinians living in the country.

Back in July, Turkish authorities said they had uncovered and disrupted a vast "ghost" Mossad spy network centered in Istanbul, following months of surveillance.

The substantial efforts by Turkey's MIT exposed 56 operatives allegedly spying on non-Turkish citizens in Turkey in the service of Mossad.

Also in May, Turkish media outlets reported that local authorities had managed to arrest 11 people suspected of being part of a Mossad-led network.

Turkey also broke Mossad-aligned spy rings in 2021 and 2022.

Erdogan has been vocal in denouncing Israel’s relentless strikes on Gaza and has already said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will eventually be “tried as a war criminal.”

Turkey and Israel have maintained some form of diplomatic ties, as both sides took a step towards normalizing their relations by reappointing ambassadors after years of tension. However, the current Gaza war has deteriorated their bilateral relations significantly.

Israel launched the war on Gaza on October 7 after Hamas waged the surprise Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in response to the Israeli regime's decades-long suppression and devastation against Palestinians.

Since the start of the aggression, the Tel Aviv regime has killed 23,210 Palestinians, most of them women and children, and injured some 59,167 others.

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