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An Israeli NGO announced on Monday that it has requested that the US compel Turkey to extradite Hamas mastermind Saleh al-Arouri for the murders of US citizens in Israel. This urging comes as the US enters negotiations about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's request that it extradite Fethullah Gulen from his Pennsylvania residence for allegedly masterminding a coup against the Turkish leader.
The NGO, Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center, sent a letter on Wednesday to US Vice President Joseph Biden, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch (all of who are visiting or sending representatives to Turkey soon), but only announced the request Monday.
Shurat Hadin represents the families of murdered US citizens, Naftali Fraenkel and Rabbi Eitam Henkin.
Fraenkel was one of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered by Hamas agents under Arouri’s command in June 2014. He took credit for the murder on August 20, 2014.
Henkin was murdered on October 1, 2015, in a Hamas shooting attack which also killed his wife, Israeli citizen, Na’ama Henkin.
Then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon also confirmed the attack was directed by Arouri.
Arouri has reportedly been in Turkey since 2012 when he fled Syria in the midst of the civil war.
Gulen is a powerful Turkish cleric and former ally of the ruling party who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999 in self-imposed exile. Erdogan had accused him of masterminding the failed July 15 coup attempt against him and demanded the US extradite him to stand trial.
Shurat Hadin’s point to the US was that – without taking a position on Gulen – if the US is engaging Turkey about extradition at the highest levels and sending special teams to Ankara, at the very least Turkey should be extraditing Arouri who murdered US citizens living in Israel.
The letter notes that the US named Arouri as a co-conspirator in a 2003 indictment against Hamas operatives and that it listed him as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in September 2015.
The NGO made a push for Israel to condition its recent normalization agreement with Turkey on expelling Arouri and Hamas operatives from the country, but the government signed the agreement with only a vague promise that no Hamas military operations would be planned from its soil.
Shurat Hadin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and US Counsel Robert J. Tolchin concluded the letter by imploring the US not to “allow the perpetrators of terror against United States citizens to remain at large when there exists a viable legal avenue to bring them to justice.”