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Turkey turns a blind eye to Hamas' use of Turkish drone on October 7 :: Middle East Forum

Turkey turns a blind eye to Hamas' use of Turkish drone on October 7 :: Middle East Forum
Turkey turns a blind eye to Hamas' use of Turkish drone on October 7 :: Middle East Forum

 


In this video footage, Hamas fighters are seen preparing to deploy a Turkish drone for a bomb attack.

A senior Turkish official dismissed the use of a Turkish drone in a Hamas terror attack on civilian and military targets in Israel last year as a mere allegation, saying the government had no such information although the manufacturer of Istanbul confirmed that it was one of its drones.

Fuat Oktay, chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and former vice president of Turkey, responded to concerns from an opposition lawmaker that the use of a Turkish drone in the attack could cause problems to the country, declaring: “We have nothing to verify the origin of the attack. the accuracy of such an incident.

A video shared by Hamas' military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, on October 21, 2023, shows that one of the drones used in the October 7 attacks on Israeli targets was made by Remzi Babu Assuva Savunma Sanayi, based in Istanbul. (Assuva Defense Industry). The propaganda video showed the simultaneous use of at least three Turkish drones.

The images showed a Proton Elic RB-128, the standard model of which sells for between $40,000 and $60,000. With improved features, its price can reach $300,000.

This is a powerful industrial-type drone with aerial surveillance and underground imaging functions. It scans terrain up to 3,000 meters and has depth perception of 50 meters, detecting objects for civil and military purposes. The Turkish army uses the drone to identify metal objects, trenches, mines and corpses.

Assuva is owned by a Turk named Remzi Babu, a 46-year-old from the central province of Nevehir. He has been closely associated with the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, enjoying VIP treatment in government circles and having access to senior officials.

Having previously worked in Germany for a manufacturer of metal detectors, including those used in treasure hunting, Babu transferred his experience to Turkey by establishing his first company on January 26, 2010, initially focused on the sale of various electronic gadgets. It then moved into manufacturing drones and detectors in Turkey, integrating domestically manufactured software and hardware.

In 2019, he renamed his company by adding the word “Defense” to its name. Commercial register data indicates that he is the sole owner of the company.

It delivers drones to the Turkish military, among other customers, and can custom manufacture drones based on specific customer requests. This involves making them more sensitive, equipping them with better cameras, extending battery life, integrating drop trigger mechanisms, and incorporating other desired features.

After the Hamas images were distributed online, it was interviewed by the Turkish press, during which he confirmed that a drone manufactured by his company was indeed the one used in the video. He said he did not know how the drone ended up in Hamas's possession, saying his company's drones were exported to more than 30 countries, including China, Korea, Japan, Germany, Poland, Albania and many countries in South America.

The Proton Elic RB-128 drone is manufactured by Assuva Defense Industry in Istanbul. (Photo: Nordic Monitor)

Although he did not mention Iran among the exporting countries in this interview, another In an interview published in March 2023, before the Hamas attack, Babu specifically mentioned Iran as a country to which he had exported drones.

He said drones sold abroad could change hands multiple times, emphasizing that he had no control over such transfers. It is worth noting that Turkey is one of the main countries that Iran uses to import prohibited and dual-use goods to support its military-industrial complex, often facilitated by Erdogan's pro-Iranian government, which has been criticized for ignoring sanctions imposed on Iran. mullahs' regime for its support of terrorist networks.

Although Assuva's products may have military applications and the Turkish military has already purchased dozens of them for active use in military operations aimed at detecting and identifying targets, the company is not licensed as a defense contractor, which would require special authorization and regulatory controls. It operates in the civilian sector and announces that the use of its drones is completely legal in Turkey as long as they are not deployed to scan prohibited areas such as military bases or airports.

The Hamas video shows that the Proton Elic RB-128 has a bomb release and launch mechanism installed under its belly. According to Babu, this feature was added to his drone after the sale. He admitted that his customers had asked in the past to add such functionality, but he did not grant the request because the company was not authorized to manufacture military-style drones.

“There were requests, but we did not intervene because we are not authorized to produce weapons. We did not enter into them. [military] field. We take underground aerial images. However, once someone buys it, they can install additional features themselves. For example, they can add a drop system. They could even attach a gun to shoot bullets or add an extra camera,” he said.

Nonetheless, the use of the Assuva drone in a terrorist attack in a foreign country raises questions about the liability of the Turkish government, which could be blamed for failing to exercise due diligence when exporting these drones to dual use abroad, particularly towards a country. countries like Iran, which is subject to Western sanctions.

Remzi Babu, owner of Assuva Defense Industry, poses with a drone similar to the one used in the Hamas terrorist attack. (Photo: Nordic Monitor)

The issue was first raised on the Parliament's agenda by opposition MP Ouz Kaan Salc during the General Assembly on May 29. He expressed concern about the potential use of such drones against Turkey and gave the example of the Assuva drone to emphasize his point.

He called for a coordination mechanism to ensure that exported Turkish weapons are not used against Turkey. “Let's say you sold it to a foreign country, then sold it to someone else, and it ended up in the hands of a hostile entity. If they used it to attack our borders, our overseas bases or our embassy, ​​who would be held accountable?” He asked.

“Do we have measures to prevent the military equipment we sell to foreign countries from being used in a way that could cause problems for Turkey in another part of the world? Do we have an effective monitoring mechanism to prevent their use outside the countries where they are used? he added.

Salc raised the issue of drones again during the June 4 parliamentary foreign affairs committee meeting, expressing concerns over Hamas' use of a Turkish drone in a terrorist attack. He stressed the need for the government to take necessary precautions to mitigate the potential threats Turkey could face by allowing the sale of such drones.

“[T]A drone could have hit Turkish soldiers. I'm not saying this to endorse or justify its use in any attack, but it could be used against our own interests, for other reasons, and directly harm us,” he said.

Committee chairman Oktay sought to downplay the incident as a mere allegation. The government maintains an attitude of total ignorance regarding any involvement of Turkish drones in the Hamas attack. Representing the Foreign Ministry at the meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Mehmet Kemal Bozay refrained from making any comments when asked about the incident.

Yksel Erdogan, head of the international cooperation department at the Defense Industry Presidency, Turkey's main defense procurement agency, addressed the incident by saying the export restrictions only applied to military items, including bans on transfer to third countries. “If a product is widely recognized as a military item,” he said, “the purchase requires an end-user certificate. Thus, obtaining authorization is imperative if one has the intention to transfer it to a third party.

According to his assessment, Assuva's commercial drone did not fall into the category of controlled exports.

It is unclear how the Turkish drone ended up in Hamas' possession. However, even if the Turkish government knew that Hamas was the end user, it is unlikely to intervene, given President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's staunchly pro-Hamas stance. Erdogan has repeatedly stated that he does not view Hamas as a terrorist organization but rather as resistance fighters, drawing parallels with Kuvay-i Milliye (Turkish National Forces), a crucial irregular militia during the Turkish War. Turkish independence after the First World War.

The Turkish president said that Hamas also defends the Turkish homeland because he believes that Israel has set its sights on Turkish territory following the annexation of Palestinian lands. He expressed support for Hamas leaders before and after the October 7 attacks.

Many Hamas figures, including several senior leaders, reside and operate in Turkey under the protection and support of the Erdogan government. The Turkish intelligence agency MIT provided information on the security of some Hamas leaders and played a role in establishing the Hamas leadership headquarters in Istanbul.

Turkish intelligence and police also took action against Mossad assets and informant networks in Turkey as they attempted to gather intelligence on the Hamas network.

Although some Hamas front companies have been subject to sanctions by the United States, they continue to conduct their business activities and access Turkish financial and banking systems without hindrance. Additionally, some Hamas officials changed their names in Turkey after acquiring citizenship to conceal their identity.

Middle East Forum Milstein Writing Fellow Abdullah Bozkurt is a Sweden-based investigative journalist and analyst who runs the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network and is president of the Stockholm Center for Freedom.

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