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Israel-Palestine war: Israeli strike targeting Hamas leader kills two Turkish citizens in Lebanon

Turkish volunteers had travelled to the Lebanese-Israeli border to join the fight against Israel, sources tell MEE
Bilal Ozturk and Yakup Erdal (X)
Bilal Ozturk and Yakup Erdal were killed alongside a Qassam Brigade leader by Israel drone strike (X)

An Israeli strike that targeted a Hamas commander on the Lebanese border also killed two Turkish citizens who had volunteered to go to Lebanon to fight the Israeli army. 

On Tuesday, Israeli drones targeted a vehicle near the southern Lebanon city of Sour, killing Khalil Hamid Kharazi, a commander of Hamas' armed wing the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and two other people, according to Hamas official statement and Lebanese state news agency.

Middle East Eye confirmed through sources and family members that the two people killed alongside Kharazi were Turkish citizens, named Bilal Seyfullah Ozturk and Yakub Erdal. 

Two influential sources within Turkey’s Salafist circles said that both individuals had ties to the community. 

Abdullah Ozturk, older brother of Bilal Ozturk, told MEE that his sibling had long dreamt of going to Lebanon to fight Israel and support Palestinians. 

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“He told me that he would go instead of me because I had too many health problems to make such a journey,” he told MEE. He added that his brother travelled from Istanbul to Lebanon on Saturday and reached the Lebanese-Israeli border on Sunday. 

'I waged jihad against enemies of Islam in Afghanistan and Chechnya for years. What was not granted to me was granted to my [son] Seyfullah'

- Bilal Seyfullah's father Omer Ozturk

Abdullah added that the Qassam Brigades informed his family about his brother’s death and said Israel targeted the vehicle with three strikes and all people in the car were killed. 

“He will be buried close to the place where he lost his life in accordance with the Islamic practices after having completed the bureaucratic procedures such as getting a DNA sample,” he said.

He added that the family was planning to go to Lebanon to join the funeral but they felt threatened by the Israeli military. 

An influential source within the Salafi circles said Bilal Ozturk was the son of a Salafi scholar in Istanbul,  nicknamed as Walletless Omer Hodja.

Bilal’s brother Abdullah confirmed the information. Two separate sources claimed that Bilal Ozturk also fought in the Syrian civil war, but MEE couldn't independently confirm this allegation. 

Bilal’s father Omer Ozturk told local news site Haksoz Haber that he was proud of his son.

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"Me and his mother raised our children for these days,” he said. “I also waged jihad against the enemies of Islam in Afghanistan and Chechnya for years. What was not granted to me was granted to my Seyfullah.

"Hopefully, we will be granted martyrdom. Currently, at my home, as a family, we accept congratulations, not condolences." 

Two Salafist sources told MEE that Erdal, who was also killed in the attack, was imprisoned for a while over activities in the Syria war and was released in 2023. However, the details remain obscure.

Sources said that Erdal was influenced by the main Salafist movement followed by Kurds and he had relations with communities of Kurdish origin.

Israeli informant

Lebanese sources told MEE that the Israeli drone attack took place due to a local informant working for Israel. The sources said the person who provided the Israelis with vehicle coordinates had been detained by the Qassam Brigades.

Israel-Palestine war: Two journalists and two civilians killed by Israeli strikes on Lebanon
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The Qassam Brigades in Lebanon have not made a statement on the issue and did not respond to MEE's requests for comment.

Since a Hamas-led attack on 7 October, which killed around 1,200 Israelis, clashes have been ongoing on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

A total of nine people were killed in Israeli strikes on Lebanon on Tuesday, including Ozturk and Erdal, as well as two journalists, two other civilians and five members of Hamas.

Primarily, attacks on Israel from Lebanon have been staged by Lebanese armed movement Hezbollah, which has lost 85 of its fighters.

Meanwhile, Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip have killed more than 14,000 Palestinians, including over 5,000 children.

Additional reporting by Cagatay Cebe in Istanbul.

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