News you may have missed #884 (Mossad edition)

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►How Israel spies on the Sinai. Israeli intelligence services have expanded their activities in the Sinai Peninsula since the Hosni Mubarak regime fell in 2011, and along with it, the Sinai state security apparatus affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Interior. Israeli intelligence services often target young smugglers, attempting to pressure them into working as operatives for Israel in the peninsula.
►►Veteran Mossad operative Mike Harari dies. Israeli secret service agent Mike Harari, who played a major role in planning WRATH OF GOD, Mossad’s revenge attacks against Palestinian militants implicated in the 1972 Munich massacre of the country’s Olympics team, has died. He was 87. Harari was also involved in planning Israel’s dramatic rescue of hostages held by militants in Entebbe, Uganda in 1976. He was depicted by Israeli actor Moshe Ivgy in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film “Munich”, a controversial account of the Operation WRATH OF GOD affair.
►►Mossad launches new recruiting website. The Mossad has launched a new website, in several languages, in order to recruit candidates to its ranks. The reported goal of the upgraded site is to make the organization more accessible to potential recruits in Israel and abroad, who “may not be exposed to the variety of positions available in operations, intelligence, technology and cyber, and administration”. The Israeli covert-action agency says positions are available for men and women alike.

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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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Yitzhak Hofi, controversial head of Israeli Mossad, dead at 87

Yitzhak HofiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Yitzhak Hofi, who led the Israeli covert-action agency Mossad during one of its most important periods, has died at the age of 87. Born in Tel Aviv during the time of the British Mandate of Palestine, Hofi rose through the ranks of the Israeli Defense Forces before assuming directorship of the Mossad in 1974. The young Hofi joined the Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, which was the most militant wing of the Zionist community in Palestine. The British occupation forces designated the Haganah a terrorist organization at the time. After Israel was formally established, Hofi was one of many members of the Palmach that formed the founding backbone of the IDF. Having fought in the 1948 Palestine War, Hofi rose through the ranks of the IDF throughout the next three decades, serving in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Following the end of that conflict, an internal government investigation found that David Elazar, the IDF’s Chief of Staff, was personally responsible for many of Israel’s military failures during the clashes. Elazar was forced to resign in 1974, and Hofi served in his place for a brief period in an interim capacity. But he resigned in protest after Israel’s Defense Minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, appointed his protégé Motta Gur to the post. A few months later, Israel’s newly elected Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, asked Hofi to assume the directorship of the Mossad. Hofi accepted Rabin’s nomination and went on to lead the Israeli intelligence agency until 1982, during one of the Jewish state’s most important periods. Although his allies credit him with exerting a moderate style of leadership, his critics blame him for forging close ties between the Mossad and the rightwing Kataeb Party in Lebanon. In September of 1982, Kataeb’s Phalangist militia members perpetrated the Sabra and Shatila massacres, in which as many as 3,500 civilians, most of them Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, were killed, some say with direct Israeli complicity. At the same time, however, Hofi’s political maneuvering in Morocco laid the groundwork for the secret summit in Rabat between Israel and Egypt. The talks led to the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, and prompted the historic visit by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to the Jewish state. Read more of this post

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

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 #879

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Israeli spy budget close to $2 billion. According to reports in the Israeli media, the 2014 budget for Israel’s secret services is 6.88 billion shekels, which amounts to US$1.97 billion). This figure represents an approximate increase of 4 percent compared to last year. The funds cover the operations of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, and the Mossad, which is the country’s external covert-action agency.
►►Australia and France sign intelligence accord. Australia has struck a second intelligence-sharing agreement in less than a week, this time with France, as fears rise about the Syrian civil war becoming a hub for home-grown terrorism. The two countries have agreed, among other things, to share intelligence on their respective citizens who have gone to Syria to fight in that country’s civil war. A week earlier, Canberra had signed a similar intelligence-sharing agreement with the government of Indonesia.
►►Nazi spy could have changed course of D-Day. Days before the Normandy landings, the Lisbon-based Nazi spy Paul Fidrmuc got wind of the final details of Operation Overlord and sent an urgent message to Berlin. The Allies were not planning to land in Calais, as the Nazis thought and where they had massed 200,000 soldiers. Instead, he wrote, “the preferred plan is around La Manche”. But his dispatch was ignored by his Berlin handlers.

Israel has long list of assassination targets, says analyst

Hassan Lakkis By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The assassination of Hezbollah commander Hassan Lakkis in Beirut, on December 3, sent shockwaves across the Middle East. Lakkis was in charge of advanced weapons planning for the militant Shiite group that controls large swaths of Lebanon. He was killed around midnight local time outside his house in the Lebanese capital, when at least two gunmen opened fire at close range, shooting him several times in the head. Shortly afterwards, Hezbollah openly accused Israel for the murder, while the Jewish state strongly rejected the allegations. But veteran Israeli intelligence commentator Ronen Bergman, who is senior analyst for Israel’s highest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, has little doubt that Israel was behind the attack. In an article published on Thursday in Foreign Policy, Bergman suggests that Lakkis was one of many individuals on an extensive assassination list maintained by Israel’s intelligence agencies. The list is believed to include “leading figures” in what Israeli military and intelligence planners call “the Radical Front”. This term comprises two national governments, namely those of Syria and Iran, as well as leading officials in three militant organizations, Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The longtime Israeli commentator says that the “Radical Front” assassination list was initially compiled in 2004 by Israeli covert-action agency Mossad. Interestingly, its authors did not focus on the political or ideological leadership of targeted organizations. Rather they concentrated upon “the people who handled the details and the translation of strategy into actual practice”. Many of those placed on the list were individuals with “advanced operational, organizational and technological capabilities”, says Bergman. He goes on to list several victims of Israel’s assassination campaigns, including Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah, who died in a massive car explosion in Syrian capital Damascus on February 12, 2008. At the time of his assassination, Mughniyah headed Hezbollah’s security apparatus and was among the organization’s most senior intelligence officials. Another victim mentioned by Bergman is Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman, who had been appointed by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad as Special Presidential Advisor for Arms Procurement and Strategic Weapons. 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.

Turkey ‘disclosed identities of Mossad spies’ operating in Iran

Israel and IranBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Turkey disclosed to Iranian counterintelligence the identities of Mossad spies operating in Iran, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper’s associate editor, David Ignatius, cited “knowledgeable sources” on Thursday, in claiming that up to 10 spies were captured as a result of the Turkish disclosure. The alleged spies, who are all Iranian citizens, are said to have been operating inside Iran on behalf of Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. Ignatius said the Turkish action, which appears to have been authorized by Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, resulted in a “significant loss of intelligence” for the Mossad’s Iran office. Turkey and Israel forged strong bilateral ties in the 1990s and early 2000s. But they fell out in dramatic fashion in May of 2010, when Israel attacked a convoy of civilian ships in international water. The ships, known as the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, were carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials to the Gaza Strip. But Israel claimed that the ships’ pronounced intention to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, was an affront to Israel’s national security and subverted Israeli political jurisdiction, expressed through the blockade. The attack on the flotilla by Israeli commandos resulted in the death of 10 Turkish civilians, one of whom was also an American citizen. Following the Israeli attack, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Jewish state, terminated several joint military projects with Israel, and called an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Relations between the two countries, which reached a low point in May of 2010, have yet to recover. Read more of this post

Iran announces spy arrests after Ahmadinejad helicopter ‘accident’

Iran and its regionBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Iran announced the arrest of an alleged 12-member spy network on Sunday, just hours after a helicopter carrying the country’s President was forced to make an emergency landing due to an unspecified “accident”. Iran’s state controlled media reported late on Sunday that the alleged spy ring had been instructed “to carry out terrorist acts” aimed at disrupting the Iranian presidential election, which is to be held on June 14. In a carefully worded statement, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said the alleged spy ring operated under the direction of Israel’s covert-action agency, Mossad. The statement added that the ring’s leader had been recruited through “a reactionary Arab country” in the region and his espionage and sabotage activities in Iran were directed from “a headquarters in Britain”. Unconfirmed news reports claimed yesterday that “a remarkable amount of weapons” had been confiscated by Iranian counterintelligence forces as they apprehended the 12 ring members. The government’s statement said the weapons were meant to be used to “conduct terrorist acts” before and during the June 14 election day, and to “create ethnic and religious divisions” inside the country. On June 14, Iran is scheduled to hold its first presidential election since 2009, when the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked mass demonstrations organized by the opposition ‘Green Movement’. Some have called these demonstrations a precursor of the Arab Spring, which led to the toppling of regimes in several Arab countries, including Egypt and Libya. Read more of this post

Ex-Mossad official denies Zygier compromised intelligence operation

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former Mossad official has dismissed as “nonsense” suggestions that an Australian-born Israeli spy, who killed himself in 2010, had been jailed for inadvertently compromising an Israeli secret mission. Ben Zygier was an officer in Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad for several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February of 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. In March, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel alleged that Zygier was arrested by Israeli intelligence after contacting a Lebanese Hezbollah operative without Tel Aviv’s authorization. The Australian-born spy was allegedly trying to recruit the operative on his own initiative and without permission from his superiors. In order to prove his Mossad credentials, Zygier is said to have given the man several names of Israel’s double agents operating inside Hezbollah. But the Lebanese recruit surrendered Zygier’s information to Hezbollah, which promptly arrested many of Israel’s informants inside the organization. Those arrested included Ziad al-Homsi, who at the time was believed to be one of the Mossad’s most lucrative assets inside the Lebanese militant group. On Tuesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that, at the time of his arrest in Lebanon, al-Homsi was preparing to assist the Mossad in recovering the bodies of three Israeli soldiers that had been killed in Syria during the 1982 Lebanon War. Read more of this post

Israel spy agency has presence in Syria, says senior rebel general

Regional map of SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israel is one of several countries that maintain a significant intelligence presence inside Syria, according to the top commander of the Syrian rebel forces. General Salim Idriss, Chief of Staff for the Free Syrian Army, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the Jewish state has “many, many” intelligence officers in various parts of Syria. The Arab country has been rocked since 2011 by a violent civil war, which has cost the lives of at least 60,000 people. Idriss was responding to comments made earlier this week by Brigadier General Itai Brun, senior intelligence analyst for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Brun, who heads the Division for Research and Analysis of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, was speaking at a conference hosted in Tel Aviv, Israel, by the Institute for National Security Studies. He told an audience of intelligence experts that the IDF was “quite certain” that the Syrian government headed by President Bashar al-Assad had resorted to the use of chemical weapons against rebel forces on at least one instance. According to Brun, footage obtained by the IDF of rebel casualties from a March 19 attack by Syrian government forces, pointed to the use of sarin nerve gas. He referred to evidence such as the victims’ dilated pupils and “the foam coming out of their mouths” as strong proof of the use of weaponized sarin nerve gas in the battlefield. Responding to Brun’s allegations, General Idriss suggested that Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons repeatedly in a variety of locations, including Aleppo, Homs, and the outskirts of capital Damascus. Read more of this post

Israel’s Prisoner X ‘gave Mossad secrets to Hezbollah’: German report

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Australian-born Israeli spy, who killed himself while being held in an Israeli prison in 2010, had been arrested for sharing Israeli secrets with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a German report.  Ben Zygier was an officer in Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad for several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. In February of this year, when an Australian television program identified ‘Prisoner X’ as Zygier, the Australian government admitted it had been aware of its citizen’s incarceration and death, but chose not to extend to him diplomatic support. One of the burning questions in the Zygier case relates to the precise reasons for his detention. On Sunday, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the Australian-born Zygier was arrested by Israeli intelligence after contacting —on his own initiative and without permission— an individual with links to militant Shiite group Hezbollah. According to the Spiegel report, Zygier had been demoted from an operations officer to a desk clerk, having failed to produce actionable results after several years of fieldwork in Europe. Seeing his demotion as a major obstacle to his career, the Australian-born spy allegedly embarked on a ‘rogue’ mission, in an attempt to impress his Mossad superiors. In 2008, when the Israeli government allowed Zygier to return to Australia to pursue graduate studies, he secretly traveled to Europe and established contact with a man from a Balkan country known to have close links with Hezbollah, considered by Tel Aviv as one of Israel’s mortal enemies. Read more of this post

Israel wiretapped PLO head office in Tunisia: report

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence was able to intercept the conversations of senior Palestinian leaders in Tunisia in the months leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to an article published Monday by a leading Israeli newspaper. Veteran security correspondent Ronen Bergman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth  that sophisticated listening devices were planted in the office of Mahmoud Abbas. Today, Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen, is the President of the Palestinian National Authority, based in the occupied West Bank. But in 1993 he was Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), serving under its founder and Chairman, Yasser Arafat. At that time, the PLO was headquartered in Tunisian capital Tunis, where it had relocated in 1982 after it was driven out of Lebanon during Israel’s invasion. Bergman said that the operation, codenamed GOLDEN FLEECE, was authorized by Shabtai Shavit, who was at the time Director of the Mossad, Israel’s primary covert-action agency. The operation, considered one of the Mossad’s most important and secret at the time, was carried out by a Palestinian agent who had been recruited by Israeli intelligence. The agent, described by Bergman as a “man within the PLO leadership”, was allegedly affiliated with Fatah, a Palestinian political party that has traditionally formed the largest faction within the PLO. The agent allegedly managed to plant at least two eavesdropping devices at the personal office of the PLO’s Vice Chairman, one in his office chair and one inside one of the desk lamps in the room. Bergman says that, on the day the devices became operational, Shavit held an emergency meeting to inform the Mossad’s senior commanders about their existence. Read more of this post

Former Mossad officer describes Zygier affair as ‘scandalous’

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former member of Israeli spy agency Mossad, who claims to have worked in the same covert-operations unit as Ben Zygier, has described the latter’s incarceration and subsequent death as “scandalous”. The Australian-born Zygier was a Mossad officer several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. Earlier this month, when an Australian television program identified ‘Prisoner X’ as Zygier, the Australian government admitted it had been aware of its citizen’s incarceration and death, but chose not to extend to him diplomatic support. So far, the Mossad, Israel’s foremost covert-action agency, has remained silent on the matter. But a former Mossad operative, who uses the name Michael Ross, has weighed in with his opinion. Ross was born in Canada and converted to Judaism before joining the Mossad for 13 years, seven of which he claims to have spent in the same covert-operations unit as Zygier. Although he never met his Australian-born colleague, Ross wrote in The Daily Beast in the weekend that he and Zygier “were in the field at the same time, albeit in different units”. In his article, the former Mossad spy dismisses allegations that Zygier may have betrayed his employer, saying that he has seen no evidence that the Australian-born Jew was not dedicated to the mission of the Mossad. He argues that the circumstances surrounding Zygier’s incarceration in solitary confinement were “scandalous”, because the jailed spy presented “no danger to the public”. Instead, says the former spy, Zygier could have been dismissed from the spy service and placed under house arrest for as long as it would have been necessary for the accusations against him to be “dealt with internally”. Read more of this post

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