Egypt arrested four Hamas militants suspected of attempting to travel to Turkey to train there under a rival Hamas infrastructure that does not answer to the Islamic group’s politburo, an informed Egyptian security official told WND.
Initial reports said the four members of Hamas’ so-called military wing were kidnapped by an ISIS affiliate operating in the Sinai.
Later, Hamas accused the Egyptian security services of kidnapping the men, who departed the Gaza Strip with dozens of civilians through the Rafah border crossing at the Gaza-Sinai border.
Now the Egyptian security official confirmed to WND that the four were arrested upon crossing into the Sinai. The official for the first time disclosed the name of one of the four arrested, 23-year old Yasser Zanoun, who operates as a navy commando leader in the South Gaza naval network of Hamas.
The official further said the four Hamas gunmen were en route to Turkey to train at a base run by Salah al-Arouri, a Hamas leader who has amassed significant power within the terror group’s infrastructure and directs his own wing from the NATO country.
Arouri is said to oppose Hamas’ efforts at negotiating a long-term cease-fire with Israel and may be looking to thwart the talks with attacks against the Jewish state.
Last November, Israel’s Shin Bet security service disclosed that in September it had dismantled a Hamas terror ring of 30 West Bank gunmen who were being directed by what the Shin Bet described as a Hamas base in Turkey.
The Shin Bet said the ring was preparing to carry out major terrorist attacks, including the bombing of Jerusalem’s main soccer stadium and the city’s light-rail line. The ring also sought to kidnap Israelis domestically and abroad, carry out roadside attacks, storm Jewish villages and plant car bombs in Israeli cities.
Hamas’ Turkish leadership, directed by al-Arouri, was said to have also been behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014.
A previous report on Israel’s Ynet news website stated Israeli diplomats appealed to NATO to take action against Turkey for allegedly providing Hamas leaders refuge to plot attacks.
“It’s illogical for a NATO member to host a terrorist organization that trains and plans terror attacks on its soil,” an Israeli statement read, according to Ynet.
Turkish officials claimed Israel’s allegations of a Hamas headquarters in Turkey are “lies and deception” meant to undermine relations between the two countries.
Regarding the dismantlement of a terrorist cell directed from Turkey last November, Ynet quoted an unnamed Turkish diplomat stating, “It never happened.”
Continued the Turkish diplomat: “There are elements in Israel who are trying to torpedo the attempts to smooth things out between the two countries and turn a new leaf. They are telling lies, as though Hamas operates in Turkey with the government’s knowledge.
“Turkey has a dialogue with Hamas but will absolutely not allow any terror organization to operate on its soil.”
A recent Al Monitor profile on al-Arouri’s Hamas wing in Turkey states the Istanbul-based Hamas leader “amasses significant power within the familiar Hamas structure and even has substantive influence on the functioning of the movement – influence that bends Hamas leadership to his will.”
“Based in Istanbul, Arouri tends to adopt autonomous characteristics similar to those of the Hamas military wing in the Gaza Strip,” wrote Al Monitor columnist Shlomi Eldar.