OPINION - Mossad's assassination threat and the reaction of Turkish intelligence

Neither Türkiye nor any other country would ever accept being a playground for Mossad’s intelligence operations, as this would violate Turkish laws and sovereignty

Murat Aslan  | 06.12.2023 - Update : 07.12.2023
OPINION - Mossad's assassination threat and the reaction of Turkish intelligence

The author is associate professor at Hasan Kalyoncu University in Gaziantep, Türkiye and senior researcher at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), based in the Turkish capital Ankara.


On Dec. 1, the Wall Street Journal published a story by Dion Nissenbaum saying that Israel is planning to kill Hamas members around the world, mentioning those living in Lebanon, Türkiye, and Qatar. Turkish officials responded with a harsh statement through Anadolu that the Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT) will never permit such undertakings, as various intelligence organizations tried to in the past. Pointing out the illegality of these alleged acts in Türkiye, officials said they had warned Mossad representatives in Türkiye. Turkish intelligence has made public several intelligence operations revealing Mossad cells and their activities in Türkiye. This shows that another wave of intelligence competition is coming in the days ahead including Mossad’s quest to attack Hamas in third countries and the MIT’s efforts to repel the Mossad threats.

Why did Türkiye warn Israel against intelligence operations targeting Hamas members in Türkiye?

Neither Türkiye nor any other country would ever accept being a playground for Mossad’s intelligence operations. Such an act would violate Turkish laws and Türkiye's sovereignty. Nor would Türkiye cooperate with Israel here, since it does not recognize Hamas as a terrorist group, especially if the Israeli aggression in Gaza is taken into consideration. The natural outcome of such an undertaking would be increased intelligence efforts on suspected Mossad units, as Türkiye did last year. The first operation identified 15 Mossad members who were trying to recruit Arab students in Türkiye. The second operation was this summer was when Turkish intelligence thwarted seven Mossad members who were planning to attack 14 Palestinians. Another piece of information circulated by Turkish media was that Turkish intelligence identified and arrested 13 Mossad members gathering information on Iranian citizens and companies this May. If Mossad repeats such acts, covertly or overtly, the Israeli intelligence community in Türkiye will be accused of committing espionage and terror activities. As could be witnessed in events in 2021, 2022, and 2023, Türkiye never accepted the intelligence activities of third parties, especially Iran and Israel, on its soil.

What are Türkiye’s options if Mossad starts an intelligence operation?

Türkiye has observed how Mossad assassinated high-value Iranian individuals with remote-controlled arms mounted on vehicles or assassinations. Thus, any expert would anticipate that Turkish intelligence has already prioritized Mossad’s activities in Türkiye within the context of counterintelligence. For instance, in Malaysia, Turkish intelligence recently rescued a Palestinian who is a software expert. So Turkish intelligence is prepared to respond to such acts.

Once Israel starts an intelligence offensive in Türkiye targeting Hamas or any other nationality, the reaction could be a combination of countermeasures, which might already be put in action. It may be an integrated effort through symmetric and asymmetric methods. The symmetry would address the prerequisites of reciprocity to prevent the hostile acts of Mossad. In this sense, the initial response is increased vigilance through counterintelligence measures covering all intelligence disciplines. A common practice of Mossad is to exploit nationals from third countries in their intelligence activities. Türkiye is quite familiar with that tactic. Hence Türkish intelligence will not only focus on individuals with linkages to Israel but on all probable ones with Turkish or a third country nationality.

Other than countermeasures, given that Türkiye provided information on the whereabouts of a Palestinian hacker to Malaysian intelligence, Türkiye may provide timely and accurate information to other countries so as to deter Mossad activities. Türkiye may deepen collaboration with these intelligence organizations to deter the acts of Mossad if it is seen as a direct threat.

The asymmetric response would be political and may be based on sanctions on Israeli interests as far as Israel directly starts an aggression in Turkish territories. Türkiye may limit Israeli citizens’ travels in Türkiye or deprive Israeli companies of the use of required services by Turkish service providers. Combined with Israel’s crimes against humanity in Gaza, Türkiye may run arrest warrants through international institutions and limit the freedom to maneuver of Israeli citizens suspected of being involved in hostile acts.

Is intelligence organizations’ cooperation against Mossad possible?

Western governments mostly support the Israeli cause against Hamas, and intelligence assets mounted on British Royal Air Force aircraft started to provide information on the Gaza hostages’ whereabouts. On the other hand, there exists no significant detail on what assets and what intelligence methodology they will use. The lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq remind us that we will witness signal intelligence assets, which are already active in southern Cyprus in British bases, probably scanning cell phones, receivers, or any transmitter. Turkish intelligence will be interested in what and how Israeli and British intelligence are proceeding with their activities, though it is not a matter of intervening for now. Nevertheless, once Mossad starts intelligence operations in Türkiye, the conditions may change. Türkiye may be more active in the region cooperating with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, or other countries.

The best scenario for Mossad is to respect the sovereignty of other states. The worst case appears igniting an intelligence competition in which current technology facilitates accessing secrets. That is why Turkish intelligence didn’t hesitate to warn the representatives of Mossad in Türkiye.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu.

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