In response to pressure from Israel and the United States, Hamas senior official Saleh Al-Arouri has reportedly left Turkey, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday, quoting the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.
The removal of Al-Arouri from Turkey was said to be a priority in last week’s negotiations for Israel-Turkey reconciliation. The Israeli delegation conveyed that normalization of relations could not proceed while Turkey provides safe haven for Al-Arouri, who is responsible for a significant number of recent terror attacks in Israel.
However, according to Al-Quds, the Hamas operative actually left Turkey several months ago, apparently contradicting reports about the negotiations.
The paper quoted a Hamas source who said that “he decided to leave voluntarily so as not to embarrass Turkey, which was facing big pressure from Israel and the U.S. administration.” The also denied charges that Al-Arouri was involved in planning terror attacks from Turkey.
Al-Arouri has since been moving from one country to another and was no longer based in Turkey, he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gave further evidence of the warming of relations with Israel.
“The Israeli state and Israeli nation is a friend of Turkey without a doubt,” Omer Celik, of the AKP said at a press conference in Ankara covered by the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
Celik added a note of caution, however: “There is no concrete agreement, [or] anything that has been signed,” he said. “Efforts have been ongoing for a draft.”