ISTANBUL: Two suspects have been detained in Istanbul on suspicion of “military and political espionage” for Israeli intelligence.
The suspects contacted Palestinian software engineer Omar A. on the pretext of doing business in Turkiye, it was reported on Thursday.
The investigation was conducted by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and was based on years-long scrutiny.
It found that Raed Gazzal was working for a company linked to the Israeli Intelligence Service, and that Turkiye-based Palestinian software engineer Omar A. received a job offer from Gazzal.
The suspects, Nikola Radonjic and Fouad Osama Fouad Hijaz, were identified as working for Israeli intelligence, and they came to Istanbul to meet Omar A. about the job offer.
They transferred money into the Palestinian programmer’s account as a trial for the project they had prepared.
According to Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, Omar, born in 1991, graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza’s Department of Computer Science. He also wrote a hacking program for Gaza Interior Ministry.
This program was reportedly able to hack into phones, and attracted Israel’s attention. He reportedly received several “suspicious” job offers, including from a Norwegian software company.
Omar is considered to be one of the world’s best software developers and hackers.
He moved to Istanbul from Cairo in March 2020 for work. He provided remote lessons in computer programming and software through the LinkedIn application.
In Turkiye, he came under close surveillance by Mossad, whose operatives have tried to recruit him several times since April 2021 by sending different spies to Istanbul. The Israeli operatives reportedly tried to first take the young programmer to Europe and then smuggle him to the capital of Israel, Tel Aviv.
Turkish National Intelligence intervened once it became clear that Omar would be smuggled abroad. Turkish authorities warned him not to leave the country.
Omar decided to travel to Malaysia in September 2022 for 15 days, and Turkish intelligence again cautioned Omar over any suspicious job offer and put a tracking program on his phone.
After Omar landed in Malaysia, it was reported that a team took him to a mountain house where they interrogated and tortured him. He was reportedly asked about the details of his computer programs and hacking system, and was interrogated about whether he was working with other computer programmers in Istanbul.
After the intervention of Turkish intelligence, who accessed his coordinates from the program installed on his phone, the young Palestinian was rescued by Malaysian special teams. Those who had tortured and interrogated him were arrested in Malaysia.
Following the joint operation, Turkish national intelligence, with the support of counter-terrorism teams in Istanbul, apprehended the other two Mossad operatives who had contacted Omar.
Omar has reportedly been placed in a safe house under Turkish national intelligence control.
In July, the Turkish national intelligence organization uncovered a Tel Aviv-operated spy ring with 56 members, including an Arab Israeli, Turkish nationals and Syrians. The seven operatives apprehended were reportedly tasked for working for Mossad by hacking phones, tracking vehicle movements through GPS and hacking into networks.
In May, Turkish intelligence arrested several Mossad operatives in Istanbul for spying on Iranian targets for Israel.
The arrest decision coincided with Turkish and Israeli diplomatic ties hitting a new low amid the Gaza war, after both countries had agreed to reappoint ambassadors last year.