Egypt has expressed reservations about Hamas’s close ties with Turkey.
The Egyptian stance was relayed to Hamas officials who arrived in Cairo this week for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials on ways of easing tensions between the two sides.
The Saudi Al-Arabiya television network said that the Egyptians were unhappy with the ongoing rapprochement between Hamas and Turkey.
Egypt has demanded that Turkey stay away from issues the Egyptians are dealing with, including efforts to end the dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction.
Last month, Fatah and Hamas officials met in Istanbul, Turkey, for talks aimed at achieving unity between the Palestinian rival parties and holding long overdue elections for the Palestinian Authority presidency and parliament.
The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks in Istanbul were seen by some Palestinians as an attempt by Turkey to replace Egypt as the major mediator between the two parties. Previous Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks were held in Cairo under the auspices of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service.
“Egypt does not want to see Turkey play a significant role in the Palestinian arena,” said Palestinian political analyst Mu’taz Jaber. “The Egyptians are also unhappy with the Palestinian Authority and Fatah for trying to strengthen their relations with [Turkish President Recep Tayyib] Erdogan.”
Relations between Egypt and Turkey have been strained since 2013, mainly due to Erdogan’s support for former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Erdogan denounced Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as an “illegitimate tyrant.”
Earlier this week, a Hamas delegation headed by Saleh Arouri arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials on ways of easing tensions between the two sides, a possible prisoner exchange with Israel and achieving Palestinian national unity, Palestinian sources said.
“The Egyptians informed Hamas that Cairo was pursuing its efforts to reach a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel,” according to the Al-Arabiya report.
The visit of the Hamas officials to Cairo came days after the British newspaper The Times revealed that Hamas has set up a secret headquarters in Turkey for carrying out cyberwarfare and counter-intelligence operations. The headquarters in Istanbul were set up about two years ago and are separate from Hamas’s offices in the city which deal mainly with coordination and funding, according to Western intelligence sources. The unit is directed by Hamas’s military leadership in the Gaza Strip and was opened without the knowledge of the Turkish government, The Times added.
The secret headquarters are also reportedly responsible for the purchasing of equipment that can be used for the manufacture of weapons, and coordinating cyber-operations against Hamas’s enemies, including the Palestinian Authority.
In August, the British newspaper The Telegraph revealed that Turkey has granted citizenship to senior operatives of a Hamas terrorist cell. The paper said that at least one of 12 senior Hamas members, who are using Turkey as a base of operations, has received Turkish citizenship and an 11-digit identity number.
Seven of the 12 operatives have received Turkish citizenship, as well as passports, while the other five are in the process of receiving them, the paper said. It quoted a senior source as saying: “These are not foot soldiers but the most senior Hamas operatives outside of Gaza. [They] are actively raising funds and directing operatives to carry out attacks in the present day. The Turkish Government gave in to pressure by Hamas to grant citizenship to its operatives, thereby allowing them to travel freely, endangering other countries that have listed Hamas as a terror group.”