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2 Turkish citizens killed in Israeli drone strike in Lebanon: report

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An Israeli drone strike that targeted a commander of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on the Lebanese border also killed two Turkish citizens who had volunteered to go to Lebanon to fight the Israeli army, the Middle East Eye news website reported.

On Tuesday Israeli drones targeted a vehicle near the southern Lebanese 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 an official statement from Hamas and the Lebanese state news agency.

MEE confirmed through sources and family members that the two people killed along with Kharazi were Turkish citizens, Bilal Seyfullah Öztürk and Yakub Erdal.

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

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

“He told me 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 İstanbul to Lebanon on Saturday and reached the Lebanese-Israeli border on Sunday.

Abdullah added that the Qassam Brigades informed his family of his brother’s death and said Israel hit the car three times and that all the people in it were killed.

“He will be buried close to the place where he died in accordance with Islamic practice after bureaucratic procedures such as getting a DNA sample are completed,” he said.

He added that the family had been planning to go to Lebanon to attend the funeral but felt threatened by the Israeli military.

An influential source within Salafi circles said Bilal Öztürk was the son of a Salafi scholar in İstanbul, known as Wallet-less Ömer Hodja.

Bilal’s brother Abdullah confirmed the information. Two separate sources said Bilal Öztürk had also fought in the Syrian civil war, but MEE couldn’t independently confirm the claim.

Bilal’s father, Ömer Öztürk, told local news site Haksöz Haber that he was proud of his son.

“His mother and I 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. In my home, as a family, we’re accepting congratulations, not condolences.”

Two Salafist sources told MEE that Erdal, who was also killed in the attack, was jailed for a while over activities in the Syrian war and was released in 2023. The details, however, remain unclear.

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

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.

The Qassam Brigades in Lebanon have not made a statement on the claims and did not respond to MEE’s requests for comment.

Since a Hamas-led attack on October 7, 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 Öztürk and Erdal, as well as two journalists, two other civilians and five members of Hamas.

Attacks on Israel from Lebanon have primarily 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.

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