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EXCLUSIVE – Sources: Turkey Arrests 13 Gaza Jihadists on Suspicion of Islamic State Membership

Thirteen Gazans have been arrested in Turkey over the last month on suspicion of supporting the Islamic State organization, jihadi sources and the relative of one of the suspects in Gaza told Breitbart Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, who have lived in Turkey as students for more than a year, were arrested as Turkey stepped up measures against IS following a string of terror attacks, the sources said.

The relative of one of the suspects said that the family member’s culpability is yet to be established, “though the arrest is probably a preventative measure, as Gaza is known as a hotbed of Islamic radicalism, and we expect him to walk free very soon.”

The relative said the detainee and two of his friends went to Turkey “for the sole purpose of studying and finding employment,” given the dire situation in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority as well as Hamas officials have been lobbying the Turkish government for the men’s release, vouching for their abstention from terrorism, so far to no avail.

The recent opening of the Rafah crossing, connecting Gaza and Egypt, has prompted many young Palestinians to attempt to emigrate to Turkey.

Turkey is mentioned in jihadi rhetoric as a “stepping stone” on the way to take over Rome and the West. Jihadi online forums preach that the current battle near Aleppo is a chapter in the doomsday war, which will result in an Islamic takeover of Rome – by way of Constantinople (Istanbul).

This narrative has featured prominently in jihadi communication in recent months, especially after Turkey joined the international anti-IS coalition, which also resulted in a string of deadly terrorist attacks, the most devastating of which left more than 40 people dead and some 250 wounded at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. Turkey said it was carried out by IS, although no organization claimed responsibility.

Last month, Israel and Turkey signed a normalization pact ending a six-year crisis following the 2010 flotilla incident, in which nine activists were killed aboard a Gaza-bound ship by raiding Israeli commandos.

As part of the pact, Turkey pledged to close down Hamas offices in its territory, after Israel claimed they were involved in planning attacks against Israelis.

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