ring in an operation earlier this month, exposing five cells and
arresting 15 men suspected of conducting covert activities on foreign
students and Palestinians.
for over a year, the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) shared
the information with counter-terrorism forces. According to the Sabah
daily newspaper, a 200-strong team raided the cells in a secret
operation across four provinces on October 7.
newspaper reported that the arrested men had been instructed to gather
information on foreign students, particularly Palestinians, enrolled in
Turkish universities – with an eye on those thought to have a future in
the defense industry. The spies were also allegedly tasked with looking
into a number of other unspecified associations and organizations that
hosted Palestinians in Turkey.
The network apparently used this
information to put together profiles on individuals, which were then
relayed to Mossad officials through end-to-end encryption programs like
ProtonMail and SafeUM – a software that generates fake phone numbers.
They also communicated through WhatsApp.
As compensation, the
suspected agents were transferred payments via Western Union, Moneygram,
and even Bitcoin in some cases, the paper said. The network also
reportedly developed a courier system to transfer funds, using jewelry
stores and markets.
of the suspects, identified by his initials ‘A.B.’, was said to be a
payment courier who was reported missing in Istanbul’s Maltepe district
in June – in an apparent bid to mislead security forces. He was
reportedly paid $10,000 this year for his spying activities, according
to the paper.
Another individual named as ‘R.A.A’ apparently met
with Mossad field agents in the Croatian capital of Zagreb and received
payments of $1,000 and $1,200. A third member, ‘M.A.S’, travelled to
Zurich twice to meet with an official. Like ‘A.B’, both men had
previously been reported missing.
While the Daily Sabah did not
disclose the men’s nationalities, a number of Israeli and Arab papers
have reported that they were of “Arab origin.” The Middle East
Eye (MEE) outlet revealed that six Palestinians who had been reported
missing in Turkey since last month are among those arrested.
phone interview with MEE, the brother of an alleged Mossad agent
identified by the initial ‘M’ said that he had received a call from M a
few days ago confirming that he was in police custody in Istanbul and
asking him to hire a lawyer.
The brother claimed the allegations were “all false.”
M had reportedly lived in Turkey for the past nine years and was
supposed to graduate from a medical school in the city of Konya in two
Meanwhile, an unidentified source close to the Israeli security
establishment told MEE that the spy ring may have been working for both
Mossad and the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. The source
also speculated that the alleged operatives could have spied on students
studying in fields thought to be useful for the Palestinian militant
The Daily Sabah reported that a “comprehensive indictment” will be prepared once the MIT finishes interrogating the suspects.
Neither Turkish nor Israeli authorities have commented officially on the matter as yet.