Analysis: How does Israel recruit Palestinian informants in Gaza?

Erez border crossingBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
According to human-rights organizations, the Palestinian group Hamas has executed over 50 alleged Israeli informants in the Gaza Strip. Nearly two dozen Gaza residents were accused of collaborating with Israel and summarily shot in the weeks following the recent war between Israel and Hamas. There are serious concerns over the absence of appropriate legal processes in these executions. The issue of legal standards aside, however, there is little question that Israeli intelligence agencies have for decades relied on Palestinian informants to gather information on Arab communities in Israel and the Occupied Territories. These individuals provide the Israeli intelligence establishment with human intelligence or plant technical surveillance equipment as instructed by their handlers. But how do Israeli intelligence agencies, including the Mossad and Shin Bet, recruit Palestinian informants in difficult-to-penetrate places such as the Gaza Strip?

Palestinians who have been personally wronged by Hamas, or who oppose the militant group’s seven-year rule in the Gaza Strip, constitute low-hanging fruit for Israeli recruiters. Other informants, such as petty-thieves and other small-time criminals, are recruited through traditional intelligence techniques that include entrapment or blackmail. But it would be reasonable to assume that most recruits are lured by direct cash payments. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip is currently estimated at 40 percent, which makes offers of cash extremely enticing for a significant segment of the Gazan population. One officer in the Shin Bet —Israel’s domestic intelligence agency— said recently in respect to the recruitment of informants that “everything starts and ends with money”.

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Mossad officer who saved Hamas leader’s life appeals for moderation

Mishka Ben DavidBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
An Israeli intelligence operative, who in 1997 saved the life of the leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, has published a letter calling on Hamas to show moderation in the dispute with Israel. In 1997, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, like today, was Israel’s prime minister, authorized an ambitious operation to assassinate the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashal. The operation was carried out by the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, which sent several of its members to Jordanian capital Amman, where Mashal was living at the time. On September 25, two Mossad assassins were waiting for Mashal to arrive at his office, ready to dispense a fast-acting poison in the form of an injection. But as the Hamas leader entered the premises, his young daughter called his name, causing him to turn his head in the opposite direction. As a result, the needle with the deadly poison landed on his ear, as opposed to his neck, and much of it was spilled. Mashal started yelling and before too long the two Mossad assassins had been captured alive by Hamas security guards. Mashal was then rushed to hospital and was about to die, when a furious King Hussein of Jordan contacted Tel Aviv with an ultimatum: either an antidote would be provided to save Mashal’s life, or the captured Mossad agents would be speedily tried and most likely sentenced to death by execution. The director of the Mossad operation then contacted a support officer, Mishka Ben-David, who was awaiting orders in an Amman hotel, and asked him to deliver a vial of antidote to a Jordanian security officer who would be waiting at the lobby of the hotel later that evening. Ben-David did as he was told and handed to the Jordanians the vial of antidote, which the Mossad had prepared in case one of their operatives was inadvertently injected with the poison. The antidote saved Mashal’s life and enabled him to continue to lead Hamas, the organization that is now in command of the Gaza Strip. Last week, Ben-David published an open letter addressed to Mashal, the man whose life he once saved, in which he calls on the Hamas strongman to stop taking his cues from “the most extreme side” of his organization. In a subsequent interview with British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, Ben-David said his intention in authoring the letter was to “appeal to the rational side of Khaled Mashal”, and urge him to “accept a compromise” in order to “end the war with Israel”. Read more of this post

Destroying Hamas won’t solve conflict, says top US Pentagon official

Lieutenant General Michael FlynnBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The most senior military intelligence official of the United States has warned that the destruction of Palestinian militant group Hamas will not solve, and might even intensify, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hamas, otherwise known by its full name, Islamic Resistance Movement, was founded with Israeli help in 1987 to combat the power of its secular rival, Fatah. Since 2007, Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip, after winning most of the votes in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election. Fatah, which refused to hand over power to Hamas, now governs the West Bank. Israel has for many years accused Hamas for leading what it describes as the “rejectionist” camp of the Palestinian nationalist movement, by refusing to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state. The US is in broad agreement with its close ally Israel, and has designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization. On Saturday, however, the outgoing director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, warned Israeli officials that wiping out Hamas will not mean the end of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, and that the group’s demise will probably lead to a far more radical group taking its place. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of senior defense leaders in Aspen, Colorado. The top US military intelligence official told his audience that “if Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse”. He went on to add that the militant group’s place in Gaza would probably be replaced by “something like ISIS”. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS, which has emerged from the Syrian Civil War as the most powerful non-state actor in the region. The group has already announced the creation of an Islamic State in territory under its control in the borderlands of Iraq and Syria. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was echoing similar views expressed earlier this month by former Israeli intelligence official Efraim Halevy, who directed Israel’s covert-action agency, Mossad, from 1998 to 2002. Speaking to American television network CNN, Halevy said that numerous radical groups in the Gaza Strip would be far more threatening to Israel’s security than Hamas. Read more of this post

Israel should negotiate with Hamas, says former Mossad chief

Efraim HalevyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A former director of the Israeli covert-action agency Mossad, who helped forge a historic peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in the 1990s, has called for the Jewish state to negotiate with Palestinian group Hamas. Efraim Halevy, who directed the Mossad from 1998 to 2002, told American television network CNN on Tuesday that numerous radical groups in the Gaza Strip would be far more threatening to Israel’s security than Hamas. Speaking to CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, Halevy said that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, “is a very bad option” for Israel, but that the militant Sunni Islamist groups coming out of Syria and Iraq are “a lot worse” and posed a much more pertinent challenge to regional stability. He specifically mentioned the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS, which has emerged as the most powerful non-state actor in the region, saying that “ISIS has its tentacles in the Gaza Strip too”. Amanpour retorted that, by negotiating with Hamas, Israel would effectively legitimize the militant group. But Halevy said that, while it would be “politically inconvenient” for Israel to reach out to Hamas, the fact is that Tel Aviv has been negotiating with the Palestinian group “for years”. Even though Israel and Hamas insist on refusing to publicly acknowledge each other’s existence, in reality they have been negotiating with each other for a long time, he said. “We [presumably the Mossad] have had several rounds with Hamas in recent years, and the previous rounds ended up in agreements —arrangements, as it was called”, said the former Mossad chief. “But in effect”, he went on, “it was a negotiation between us and Hamas”. As an example, Halevy mentioned the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in 2006 in a cross-border raid by Hamas forces. He was released in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange agreement between the Palestinian group and Israel. In 2012, Halevy issued a public call for dialogue between Israel and Iran, saying that “the Iranians, in their heart of hearts, would like to get out of their conundrum”, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #857 (hacking edition)

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►UK spies hacked Belgian phone company using fake LinkedIn page. British spies hacked into the routers and networks of a Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom by tricking its telecom engineers into clicking on malicious LinkedIn and Slashdot pages, according to documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The primary aim, reports the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which obtained the documents, was to compromise the GRX router system that BICS controlled, in order to intercept mobile phone traffic that got transmitted by the router.
►►Indonesian hackers behind attack on Australian spy service website. Indonesian hackers are believed to have brought down the website of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australia’s leading spy agency. The page was not working on Monday afternoon after hackers launched a “denial of service” attack. A “404 not found” message typically appears when a website crashes under a “denial of service” attack. The cyber attack is reportedly a response to revelations that Australia had been spying on its closest neighbor through its Jakarta embassy.
►►Hamas blasts alleged Mossad website. Hamas officials released a warning about a website called Holol (“solutions”), claiming it is a ruse set up by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency to recruit Gazans as informants. The website’s “Employment” page states, “due to our connections with the Israeli Civil Administration, we can help you bypass the bureaucratic tape and procedural processes which prevent you from leaving Gaza”. The site also offers Israeli medical assistance, “due to connections with the Ministry of Health and the Israeli Civil Administration”. Palestinians interested in contacting the website’s officials are asked to provide their full name, telephone number, email, topic of inquiry, and an explanation of why they are asking for help. Last month, Lebanese group Hezbollah accused the Mossad of being behind a website seeking information on Hezbollah’s intelligence wing.

Hamas ‘found tracking devices’ inside weapons bound for Gaza

Rafah Border CrossingBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Palestinian militant group Hamas said on Sunday it refused to take possession of a shipment of missiles after its weapons experts discovered they contained a number of carefully hidden tracking devices. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabea, which reported the story, said it spoke to a source “closely affiliated with weapons smugglers” in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, who confirmed Hamas’ claim. According to Al-Youm, the weapons shipment consisted of 28 long-range missiles stolen from the arsenal of the Libyan armed forces during the uprising that led to the overthrow of Libya’s late leader, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. The shipment made its way across the border with Egypt and from there to the Sinai desert, before ending up at the Rafah Border Crossing, located between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It was there that the missiles were inspected by a team from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. The paper reported that one of the Hamas inspectors, a senior member of the al-Qassam Brigades, discovered a number of miniature tracking devices carefully concealed inside the missiles, which appeared to be active. Following the discovery, the Hamas team backed out of the purchase deal and abandoned the inspection site. Al-Youm also said that the Palestinian group has decided to terminate its contacts with a significant number of weapons smugglers operating in the Sinai, because of concerns that they may have been penetrated by Israeli and Egyptian intelligence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #738

Gareth WilliamsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Pathologist says MI6 spy may have died alone. Leading British pathologist Richard Shepherd has told the BBC there is “credible evidence” that MI6 officer Gareth Williams died alone. Williams, a mathematician in the employment of Britain’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, was found dead in a padlocked sports bag at his home in Pimlico, London, in 2010. According to Dr. Shepherd, bags identical to the one Williams was found in, can be locked by someone inside the bag.
►►Turkey may indict Israeli officers Over Gaza flotilla raid. A prosecutor in Turkey has prepared indictments and recommended life sentences for four senior Israeli officers over the killing of nine activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid flotilla forcibly intercepted in international waters by Israeli commandos two years ago. The indictments, which have not been formally approved by the Turkish judiciary, could further strain relations between Turkey and Israel, which were once close but which deteriorated badly after the flotilla raid on May 31, 2010.
►►Czech secret services alarmed by drastic drop in funding. The BIS, Czech Republic’s counterintelligence service, is used to operating on Kč 1.149 billion (around US$60 million). According to the Finance Ministry’s plan, the agency’s budget will be reduced to Kč 911 million (US$45 million) in 2013. The news has prompted former interior minister and current member of parliament František Bublan to accuse the government of effectively leading to the spy service’s “liquidation”. But Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek argues that all state institutions must cut back in order to help achieve a balanced budget by 2016.

Car explosion in Port Sudan linked to Israel

Blast site in Port SudanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A powerful car explosion, which rocked Sudan’s main port on Tuesday, killing one person, has been linked to Israel by Sudanese government officials. The car was blown up by what appears to have been a missile attack, in Port Sudan, a city of over half a million people on the Red Sea. A local reporter told Reuters news agency that the blast site featured “two small but deep holes” and “another hole beneath” what was left of the gutted car. Many observers consider Port Sudan, an ancient city that has traditionally connected Sudan with Egypt in the north and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea, as a major link in the complex smuggling network that supplies goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip. Israel has long asserted that the smuggled items are secretly carried from Port Sudan into Egypt, before eventually ending up in the Palestinian enclave that is controlled by militant group Hamas. The government of Sudan vehemently denies these charges. But a “local security source” in Port Sudan told Reuters that the car’s driver, Nasser Awadallah Ahmed Said, who was killed in the blast, was an eminent member of the Red Sea’s Ababda Bedouin tribe, whose members have a long history of smuggling weapons and goods to and from Sudan. Speaking on Tuesday, Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Ahmed Karti, stopped just short of directly fingering Israel as the culprit of the attack. Karti, who is Sudan’s most senior government official to have so far commented on the blast, told local news media that “the style of the car explosion was similar to Israel’s attack on [Sudan’s] Red Sea State [province] last year”. He was referring to a similar incident that took place in April of last year in the very same province where Port Sudan is located. At that time, Khartoum directly blamed Israel for the strike. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #606

Gaza Freedom Flotilla raid

2010 Flotilla raid

►►N. Korea planned to trade nukes for full ties with US. North Korea in 2008 indicated it would retain its nuclear bombs until the end of the six-party talks as a final bargaining chip for attaining full diplomatic relations with the United States, according to US diplomatic cables leaked recently by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
►►Judge refuses to sanction CIA for destroying torture tapes. A federal judge won’t hold the CIA in contempt for destroying videotapes of detainee interrogations that included the use of a torture technique known as waterboarding, ruling instead that the spy agency merely committed “transgressions” for its failure to abide by his court order. The Obama administration has kept its promise to the CIA.
►►Turkey says NATO members will not share intelligence with Israel. Turkey has says it is certain that NATO member states will keep their promise of not sharing the Alliance’s intelligence within with Israel. Turkish-Israeli relations badly damaged last year, after Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza to breach the naval blockade, killing nine Turkish civilians.

News you may have missed #603

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai

Syed Fai

►►Turkey has names of Israeli soldiers who attacked Gaza Flotilla. According to Turkish media, government officials succeeded in amassing the list of 174 names of officers and soldiers involved in the 2010 MV Mavi Marmara attack, by planting intelligence agents inside Israel. Turkish government officials have denied the reports.
►►Ex-MI5 chief to hear deportation case of alleged spy. A British judge has ruled that Sir Stephen Lander, former director of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, can help to decide whether Katia Zatuliveter should be deported from the UK for allegedly spying for Russia. Zatuliveter, a Russian citizen who worked as an assistant to former British Member of Parliament Mike Hancock, may be deported on the basis of espionage evidence gathered by MI5.
►►Analysis: Pakistan’s spy plot to influence Washington. Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai came to the US on Saudi money with hopes of helping people in the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir. But he found himself spending millions on behalf of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence and, now, under arrest. An excellent article by The Atlantic‘s Kim Barker, Habiba Nosheen, and Raheel Khursheed.

News you may have missed #574

CIA documents

CIA documents

►►CIA told Kennedy Cuba invasion was ‘unachievable’. [Never mind. It turns out that the original article on Foreign Policy has been corrected to state that the meeting was not with Kennedy after all -- see reader's comment below]. More revelations from the newly declassified CIA Official History of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. According to the multi-volume history (pictured), a CIA team told President-Elect John F. Kennedy during a meeting in 1960 that toppling the Cuban government of Fidel Castro would not be feasible, considering the small invasion force that Kennedy insisted upon for the Bay of Pigs operation, in order to maintain plausible deniability.
►►NATO bombs home of Libyan intel chief. A compound in Tripoli destroyed overnight by NATO air strikes was the home of Abdullah Al-Senussi, former head of Libyan intelligence. This information allegedly comes from al-Senussi’s neighbor, oil engineer Omar Masood, who said he has lived across the street for 35 years. Meanwhile, several news outlets report that Abdel Salam Ahmed Jalloud, prime minister of Libya between 1972 and 1977, has defected to Italy.
►►Palestinian attacks took Israeli intel by surprise. The triple attacks, attributed by Israel to a Palestinian splinter group from the Gaza Strip, took Israel’s intelligence and security services by surprise, judging by the ensuing confusion and inaccuracy of initial reports. Between 15 and 20 Arab gunmen, some wearing Egyptian army fatigues, are believed to have taken part in the operation.

New Gaza flotilla organizers accuse Mossad of sabotaging ships

Gaza Freedom Flotilla raid

2010 Flotilla raid

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
International organizers of a new fleet of ships that is preparing to sail for the Gaza strip, in a bid to challenge the Israeli embargo, have accused Israeli intelligence services of secretly sabotaging two of the vessels. The first announcement emerged on Tuesday from the crew of the Juliano, a Swedish/Norwegian ship harbored in Piraeus, Greece. The organizers, who said that their technicians had documented the results of the sabotage on video, claimed in a statement that “hostile divers had destroyed the [ship’s] propeller house and cut the propeller shaft”. A day later, Irish organizers onboard the MV Saoirse, which is currently docked in Turkey, told Reuters that the vessel experienced major technical damage as it was sailing for refueling to the harbor town of Göcek. The ship was eventually inspected by a marine engineer, who confirmed that it had been sabotaged. Speaking to Irish media, former Irish rugby international Paul Trevor Hogan, who is one of the activists onboard the MV Saoirse, said the damage was “identical [to that of] the Swedish boat and you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who is behind this”. Another member of the ship’s crew, Irish Member of the European Parliament Paul Murphy, called on the government in Dublin to expel the Israeli ambassador to the country. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #503

  • Dutch forces’ covert operations in Africa revealed. Dutch forces have for several years been training government soldiers in Mali, Senegal and Chad, without the Dutch parliament being informed, according to Dutch newspaper AD, which cites documents from the US Congress and the Pentagon.
  • Israel destroys spying devices found in Gaza. Hamas sources have told Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram that they discovered several “audio-visual spying devices” in the sand hills south of Gaza City. But, as soon as they started removing the devices, they “received a phone call from Israeli intelligence elements” telling them that the site would be bombed “within three minutes” —which is precisely what happened, according to al-Ahram. Regular readers of this blog will know this incident was not a first.
  • Leaked documents reveal Guantanamo secrets. A batch of leaked US government intelligence documents, not meant to surface for 20 years, shows that intelligence collection at Guantánamo often was much less effective than the George Bush administration has acknowledged. According to the documents, the US military used interrogation and detention practices that they largely made up as they went along.

Did Jordan help Israeli Mossad abduct Gaza engineer?

Dirar Abu Sissi

Dirar Abu Sissi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This blog has covered the case of Dirar Abu Sissi, a Jordanian-born engineer in the Gaza strip who was abducted in the Ukraine by Israeli spy agency Mossad on February 19. Sissi had traveled to Ukraine, birthplace of his wife, to apply for citizenship in the Eastern European country. But he disappeared in the early hours of February 19, shortly after boarding a train from Kharkiv to Kiev, in order to reunite with this brother, a Dutch national, whom he had not seen since 1997. His disappearance remained a mystery until the United Nations High Commission for Refugees told the Associated Press that Sissi had been kidnapped by Israeli operatives and had been secretly transported to a prison in Israel. His whereabouts were later confirmed in a report by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. But some observers now suspect that the Israelis did not act alone during the abduction operation. Dirar’s brother, Yousef Abu Sissi, has spoken to American journalist Richard Silverstein about his brother’s trip from the Gaza Strip to Ukraine, prior to his abduction. He told Silverstein that Dirar’s trip involved an initial flight from Egypt to Jordan. It was there, according to Dirar’s brother, that the Gaza resident was detained by Jordanian intelligence. The latter confiscated his passport, refused to allow him to board his flight to Ukraine, and held him at the airport through the night. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #485

  • Gaza engineer describes abduction my Mossad. Dirar Abu Sissi, who was abducted by Israeli spy agency Mossad from the Ukraine on February 19, has described details of his abduction in a report issued Monday by the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
  • Gaddafi regime fed names of jihadists to the CIA and MI6. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks paint eastern Libya as a fertile ground for radical extremism. One source told US officials in 2008 that for young men from Derna, a city east of Benghazi, “resistance against coalition forces in Iraq was an important act of ‘jihad’ and a last act of defiance against the Gaddafi regime”.
  • Investigators say secret CIA files could aid Chile. Chile’s truth commission has determined that 3,065 opponents of US-supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet were killed in the 1970s. Most of these cases were investigated, and some 600 military figures and civilian collaborators have been put on trial. Now campaigners are trying to get the CIA to open its files on Pinochet.
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