On Monday, the Turkish internal intelligence agency announced that it had rounded up a network of (mostly Arab) Israeli operatives working within its borders. While it is certainly possible that the Mossad has agents based in Turkey who are observing the activities of Iran or of various terrorist groups, there is also no reason to take Ankara’s version of events at face value. Benny Avni puts the story in context:
Israeli sources tell the Sun that they are intrigued by the timing of the alleged exposure, as it happened just after Mossad said it uncovered a terror ring in Cyprus and on the same day that Israel launched a major anti-terrorism push in the northern West Bank, targeting groups with ties to Turkey.
Ironically, Ankara is widely advertising the alleged bust of Mossad agents even as a major thaw of relations is under way between Israel and Turkey, which have been on a long collision course. According to various reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Erdogan plan to meet later in July, in a first such powwow since 2008. Last year, Mr. Erdogan hosted President Herzog of Israel.
Members of the ring were allegedly dispatched to Beirut and Damascus to pinpoint Hizballah sites in Lebanon and Syria for attacks by Israeli drones. . . . Some were charged with identifying Hamas-related targets at Istanbul. Unlike Israel, America, and most of Europe, Turkey does not designate groups like Hamas as terrorists. Hamas’s second in command, Saleh Arouri, has long resided in the country and reportedly still maintains a base there.
“While I can’t tell whether the spy-ring story is true, its timing is curious,” one Israeli source who declined to be identified told the Sun. “It seems to me that it was widely advertised by Ankara for internal consumption. The message they wanted to convey to their public is, ‘We’re no patsies of the Mossad.’”