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After Hamas Meeting, Experts Wonder If Turkey Doubling Down On Terror Sponsorship

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan met yesterday with top officials drawn from what Hamas describes as its political and military operations. A Hamas statement confirmed the attendance of among others Khaled Mashaal and Ankara-based Saleh al-Arouri. The two are respectively the terror group’s political bureau head and the founder of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, in the West Bank.

The three hour session included other top Turkish figures, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Arouri is based in Ankara. He is suspected of orchestrating Hamas’s recent terror resurgence in the West Bank. That Ankara allows him to operate freely on Turkish soil has already prompted at least one counterterror analyst to suggest that the Turks are in violation of black-letter legislation defining state sponsorship of terrorism.

Mashaal, in contrast, is currently based in Doha. He is however locked in politics battles that partly revolve around his presence in Qatar, and has been rumored to be seeking a new base of operations. His meeting with Erdogan has been taken in some quarters as a sign that Ankara is on Mashaal’s short list.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, pointed out yesterday that giving the Hamas leader shelter would, at a minimum, complicate Ankara’s position:

It is unclear whether Meshal wishes to relocate to Turkey. To be sure, Erdogan has emerged as one of the most outspoken world leaders advocating for Hamas in recent years… Arouri’s presence in Turkey is particularly risky for Ankara, which is a NATO and US ally. Hamas operations in the West Bank appear to be on the rise and fears of a third of intifada loom, raising concerns that Turkey could be the hub from which plots are launched. The idea that Ankara would allow Meshal, one of Hamas’ most recognizable leaders, to also seek shelter in Turkey seems hard to imagine, but the possibility cannot be ignored.

[Photo: RealFreedomNews / YouTube]