Iran denies murder plot after alleged assassin caught with gun and silencer in Cyprus

Nicosia Cyprus

ISRAEL HAS ACCUSED IRAN of being behind a plot to kill Israeli citizens in the Republic of Cyprus, following the arrest of a man who was reportedly found carrying a gun fitted with a silencer in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. The man reportedly entered Cyprus on a flight that landed at Larnaca International Airport last week. He is believed to be a 38-year-old Azeri national, who allegedly entered Cyprus using a Russian passport.

Cypriot police kept tabs on the suspected assassin as soon as he entered Cyprus, according to reports. IntelNews hears that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad may have been behind a tip given to the Cypriots about the man’s presence on the island. In the days following his arrival, the suspect crossed several times into the Turkish-occupied northern region of Cyprus, using his Russian passport and “trying to keep a low profile”, according to Israeli media reports.

The Azeri man was eventually arrested in Nicosia, shortly after entering from northern Cyprus at the Agios Dometios checkpoint. Some local news reports suggest that he was found to be carrying a gun fitted with a silencer, and that he was planning to target a number of prominent Israeli business people who live on the island. Reports in Israel claim that the alleged assassin’s primary target was Teddy Sagi, an Israeli investor who owns online gambling platforms, as well as properties in the United Kingdom and Cyprus. He is believed to be among Israel’s richest citizens.

Iran has vehemently denied Israel’s claim that Cypriot police averted “an act of terror [that] was orchestrated by Iran against Israeli business people” in Cyprus. However, the Israeli government’s announcement did not go into details, while Israeli officials refused to confirm that Teddy Sagi was the target of the alleged operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 October 2021 | Permalink

Hamas publishes photo, name and address of Israel’s incoming security chief

Nadav Argaman

THE PALESTINIAN MILITANT GROUP Hamas has published the name, address and photograph of an individual believed to be the incoming director of Israel’s security service. Known as Shin Bet, and referred also by its Hebrew acronym Shabak, the organization is among the leading agencies of Israel’s intelligence community, which also includes the Mossad and Aman. As is the case with other intelligence agencies, Israeli media are not permitted to publicize the identity of the Shin Bet’s director without permission from the government.

The incoming head of the Shin Bet has been referred to in Israeli media reports simply as “R”. He reportedly is in his mid-50s and he and his wife have three children. He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University, where he studied political science and philosophy, and has a Master’s degree from Harvard University in the United States. He rose through the ranks of the Shin Bet, and has been serving as the agency’s deputy director since 2018. Earlier this month, Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, nominated him to replace the Shin Bet’s current director, Nadav Argaman (pictured), who is set to retire in two weeks’ time.

On Sunday evening, following the outbreak of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the West Bank, several pro-Hamas Palestinian websites published R’s alleged name, address and photograph, alongside the phrase “wanted criminal”. An accompanying article, published in Arabic and Hebrew, said the information about R. was “leaked by the Palestinian resistance” and warned that the senior leadership of the Shin Bet was being “monitored by us in the resistance”. The article went on to claim that R. “is on the wanted list and the arms of the resistance will pursue him”.

According to Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post, which published news of the leak, Israeli security forces are not concerned. An anonymous government source told Israel’s KAN news agency that, despite the official ban imposed by the state, R. is “widely known in Israel’s security sector” and the photograph of him that was published by Palestinian websites was “taken at a public event, [so] there is no cause for concern”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 September 2021 | Permalink

Analysis: Counterintelligence dimensions of the Gilboa prison break in Israel

Gilboa Prison break

EARLIER IN SEPTEMBER, FIVE members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and one member of Fatah escaped from the Gilboa Prison in Israel, by digging a tunnel under the prison walls. The escape was a dramatic surprise and caused wonder in the Israeli defense establishment, since the Gilboa Prison is one of the most secure prisons in the country. The Israeli police, together with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli Security Service (ISA), immediately began an intense pursuit. About five days later, four of the six men were arrested inside Israel’s borders, after they asked for assistance from Israeli Arabs, who reported them to the Police. The remaining two were arrested a week later in the city of Jenin in the Occupied Territories.

The initial investigation revealed serious misconduct in the Israel Prison Service. Following these findings, the Israeli government decided to establish a state inquiry commission headed by a judge, in order to investigate the prison break and the conduct of the Prison Service. There are already indicators showing a lack of intelligence before and after the prison break.

The Israel Prison Service has a large intelligence unit, whose main purpose is to prevent 6,500 Palestinian prisoners from escaping. In the nine months during which the tunnel was excavated, the Israel Prison Service’s intelligence unit had no information about this activity. Throughout that time, there were various indications that suspicious activity was taking place in the prison, such as blockages of the prison’s sewer pipe with sand. Also, after the six prisoners got out of the prison walls, a system of cameras and sensors did give various signals, but these failed to get the attention of the guards. Serious endemic problems have been found in the intelligence unit, which include its senior director. This individual was allegedly appointed despite having no experience in intelligence and having taken no courses on the subject. Additionally, it is alleged that he does not speak Arabic and is not acquainted with Palestinian culture and outlook.

The second intelligence issue relates to intelligence collection after the prison break. Although some of the most advanced collection tools and significant search resources were used to locate the fugitives, the information that eventually led to their capture came from human intelligence (HUMINT) —namely Israeli Arab citizens, whom the escapees met by chance and asked for help. These Israeli Arabs have demonstrated, contrary to the opinion of right-wing political elements in Israel, their loyalty to the state. Two of the fugitives managed to cross the security fence between Israel and the Occupied Territories and reached the city of Jenin. It then took only a short time for them to be caught, as the ISA has a highly efficient HUMINT system there. Additionally, the two escapees made serious errors, such as when one of them called his father on a cell phone.

Although all six fugitives were captured, they are now considered heroes on the Palestinian street, not just among Islamic Jihad and Hamas supporters.

Dr. Avner Barnea is research fellow at the National Security Studies Center of the University of Haifa in Israel. He served as a senior officer in the Israel Security Agency (ISA).

Author: Avner Barnea | Date: 24 September 2021 | Permalink

Israel killed Iranian nuclear scientist using advanced robotic device, report claims

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

ISRAEL’S PRIMARY EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, assassinated the lead military scientist behind Iran’s nuclear program using a remote-controlled robot, according to a new report. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite paramilitary force. He was assassinated along with his wife on November 27, 2020, in an armed assault that took place in the eastern outskirts of Tehran. The attack, which lasted no more than 3 minutes, took place in broad daylight. No arrests have been made in connection with the killings.

Shortly after Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, Iranian authorities claimed that the Mossad had orchestrated his killing, and Iranian media carried reports about the alleged identities of the killers. But in February of this year, the London-based weekly newspaper The Jewish Chronicle claimed that the Mossad had killed the IRGC general using a “one-ton remote-controlled gun smuggled into Iran piece by piece over eight months”. There has been no confirmation of that report, and the details behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing remain vague.

On Saturday, however, an article by The New York Times’ Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi supported the view that the Fakhrizadeh was killed by a remote-controlled advanced robotic device. According to the new report, the apparatus had been fitted by Mossad operatives into the bed of a blue Zamyad, a popular Iranian-built Nissan pickup truck model. A Belgian-made FN MAG 7.62-mm machine gun was hidden beneath decoy construction material and a heavy tarpaulin, said the article. It repeated the The Jewish Chronicle’s claim that the device had been smuggled into Iran by Mossad operatives in pieces, over an extensive period of time.

According to Bergman and Fassihi, Fakhrizadeh’s assassins operated remotely, and there was no Mossad hit squad on the ground in Tehran when the assassination occurred. In fact, the Mossad team that installed the advanced robotic apparatus “had already left Iran” by the time the trigger was pulled. Artificial intelligence was employed to ensure that the remote sniper’s actions were successful. However, the explosives that were meant to destroy the apparatus following Fakhrizadeh’s assassination partly malfunctioned, thus allowing the Iranians to access the partly damaged vehicle, machine gun and control mechanism, said the Times.

In an article published late on Saturday, Israeli English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post said it was in a position to “confirm the accuracy of the Times report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 September 2021 | Permalink

Israel has drastically curtailed intelligence-sharing with the US, report claims

Natanz Iran

THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL scaled back significantly intelligence cooperation with the United States in January of this year, following the change of guard in the White House, according to The New York Times. In an article published on Thursday, the paper cited several unnamed Israeli and American sources in claiming that the Israeli administration of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu limited its intelligence relationship with Washington almost as soon as Joe Biden assumed the presidency of the United States.

According to the report, the Israelis decided to scale back intelligence-sharing with Washington in order to keep the Biden administration in the dark about the latest developments in the Iranian nuclear program. Following the demise of much of its intelligence network in Iran in 2019, the United States relies heavily on Israeli intelligence when it comes to following developments inside Iran, said The Times. The hope in Israel is that, by denying the Biden administration information about developments inside Iran, Israel can prevent the White House from making drastic changes to former President Donald Trump’s policy on Iran.

To illustrate its claim, the paper referred to the sabotage attack against Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant in April of this year, which has been widely attributed to Israel. According to the report, the Israelis gave the White House two hours’ notice of the plan, which was allegedly a deliberate attempt to prevent Washington from assessing the operation, and potentially pressuring Israel to cancel it.

American sources told The Times that the move by the Netanyahu administration had its roots in the bad blood between it and the administration of US President Barack Obama, who spearheaded the now-defunct nuclear deal with Iran. Additionally, American officials told the paper that the change of policy on intelligence-sharing by the Israeli government represented a violation of “a longstanding, unwritten agreement to at least advise the United States of covert operations” and giving Washington an opportunity to challenge specific courses of action.

But Israeli officials who spoke to the paper said that the reason why Washington was not given earlier notice about the attack on the Natanz nuclear plant was because of fears that it would be leaked. United States officials have leaked information before about pending Israeli covert operations, according to the Israelis. The report also suggested that the American and Israeli governments have tried to reset their intelligence relationship since the Natanz operation, but relations remain tense.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 August 2021 | Permalink

Jordanian intelligence thwarted Islamic State plan to kill soldiers in Jordan, Israel

Ghor es-Safi Jordan

THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICES OF Jordan allegedly thwarted a plan by a cell of Islamic State fighters to carry out an armed attack across two countries, with the ultimate aim of killing Jordanian and Israeli troops. The state-owned Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra’I said on Tuesday that the attack was to be carried out in Gawr as-Safi, a sparsely inhabited area of the Jordan Valley, which is adjacent to the southern portion of Israel’s Dead Sea region.

The paper said that Jordan’s General Intelligence Department caught on to a suspected Islamist militant in December of 2020. The suspect led them to a larger cell of three other militants, who were arrested in February of this year. Their goal was reportedly to attack a Jordanian border post in Gawr as-Safi and kill the border guards there. They then planned to cross into Israel and open fire on Israeli soldiers, with the aim of killing them, in what appears to have been planned as a murder-suicide mission.

In the indictment of the four men, Jordanian authorities claim that they were found to be hoarding a cache of weapons, which they planned to use to carry out their attack in Jordan and Israel. They now face charges of conspiring to commit an act of terrorism and propagating the ideology of the Islamic State, which the Jordanian government designates as an international terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, a new assessment of the Islamic State by the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations’ Security Council, warns that the militant organization remains strong in parts of the Middle East. The report, issued this week, recognizes that the Islamic State has suffered setbacks in recent years. But it cautions against dismissing the threat, noting that the militant group “has evolved into an entrenched insurgency” that is “exploiting weaknesses in local security to find safe havens and [is] targeting [government] forces” across the region.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 28 July 2021 | Permalink

Israeli AG investigating claims that ex-Mossad chief had extra-marital relationship

Yossi CohenTHE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL is reportedly investigating allegations that Yossi Cohen, who recently stepped down from the helm of the Mossad, Israel’s external spy agency, had an extra-marital affair for two years. It is also claimed that the extra-marital relationship took place while Cohen was director of the Mossad, and that he shared classified information with his alleged mistress, who is reportedly a flight attendant.

Cohen, 59, with four children, assumed the directorship of the Mossad in 2015. He is a 35-year veteran of Israel’s pre-eminent spy agency, which he left briefly in 2013 to chair Israel’s National Security Council and advise the prime minister. He is known as one of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most trusted advisers. Cohen grew up in Jerusalem and became a fighter pilot before joining the Mossad. He gradually rose through the agency’s ranks to become its deputy director. Prior to that role, he led for several years the Mossad’s Department of Collections, which handles operations officers around the world. He then led the agency’s Political Action and Liaison Department, which is tasked with facilitating cooperation between the Mossad and foreign intelligence agencies.

According to Israel’s privately owned Channel 13 television, Israel’s Ministry of Justice is currently handling an official complaint, according to which Cohen has been having “a close relationship” for the past two years with a woman who is not his wife, and who is believed to be a flight attendant. Additionally, the complaint claims that Cohen shared classified information with his alleged mistress during the course of their affair. According to Channel 13, the complaint has been handed over to the Attorney General of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, who is reviewing it.

The Channel 13 report said Cohen has strongly denied the allegations, saying that “there is no flight attendant [and] there is no close relationship”. The former Mossad chief added that he had not been contacted by Attorney General Mandelblit about the complaint, or for any other reason. The television station gave no further information about the alleged complaint, the identity of the flight attendant, or the state of the Attorney General Mandelblit’s investigation.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Cohen would head the Israel-based investment arm of SoftBank, a Japanese-headquartered multinational conglomerate holding company, which specializes in investing in firms in the financial, energy and technology sectors of the economy.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 July 2021 | Permalink

Analysis: The mysterious case of IDF ‘Officer X’ who died in an Israeli prison

Aviv Kochavi

The State of Israel has been in turmoil for several weeks, after it became known that an outstanding officer in one of the elite technological units of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Intelligence Division (Israel Military Intelligence, or IMI) was found dead while in custody in a military prison. He had been serving an eight-month sentence on suspicion of causing serious security damage to a critical intelligence technological system. The IDF’s chief of staff, Major General Aviv Kochavi (pictured), said in relation to the case: “The officer from the IMI committed very serious offenses. He committed them on purpose, for reasons I cannot describe. He almost [revealed] a big secret and we stopped it in the [last] minute”.

After the officer’s death, it was revealed by the IDF that his arrest was not a case of treason, or espionage and that he acted for personal, rather than for ideological, nationalistic or financial motives. Following public pressure about IDF’s handling of the matter and the unclear circumstances of the officer’s death, the IDF has provided some more details.

Officer X, who, according to an American website was named Tomer Aiges, was a 25-year-old captain with three honorary awards by the IMI. He had graduated from high school while simultaneously receiving a BSc in computer sciences at the age of 18. Before enlisting in the IDF, he worked in several hi-tech companies in Israel. People who worked with him there testified that he was a young man with extraordinary technical abilities, which is why he was recruited to the technology unit of the IMI.

There are two main issues of concern among the Israeli public. One is how the officer was held in custody for a long time without being brought to trial, even though a serious indictment —the details of which are not known— was filed against him, and when no one except his parents knew about it. To the young man’s acquaintances it seemed that he had mysteriously disappeared. What is more, much of his page on Facebook was deleted and no further updates appeared following his arrest. It was reported that during his arrest, there was a process of criminal mediation, in which the State of Israel sought to sentence him to ten years in prison.

The second problematic issue concerns the circumstances of his death. There are many questions about to how he could have died when his detention cell was under non-stop surveillance by closed-circuit cameras. Further questions remain as to why the investigation into the circumstances of his death has yet to be completed. There have been demands by Israeli former intelligence officers to hand over the investigation to a civilian inquiry committee headed by a Supreme Court judge, as there is grave concern that the IDF could be hiding information that could demonstrate it was negligent in protecting the officer’s life.

The publication of additional details about this case is subject to a strict ban by the Israeli military censorship —it should be noted that Israel is the only Western country that exercises security censorship. The Israeli public is eagerly awaiting the publication of further details about the circumstances of the death of the intelligence officer, Officer X.

Dr. Avner Barnea is research fellow at the National Security Studies Center of the University of Haifa in Israel. He served as a senior officer in the Israel Security Agency (ISA).

Author: Avner Barnea | Date: 18 June 2021 | Permalink

US is far from rejoining Iran nuclear deal, Biden reportedly tells Mossad chief

Yossi CohenUNITED STATES JOE BIDEN reportedly told the director of Israel’s external intelligence agency, the Mossad, that Washington has “a long way to go” before rejoining a 2015 agreement aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The meeting between Biden and Mossad director Yossi Cohen reportedly took place last Friday, during Cohen’s visit to Washington last week, to discuss bilateral security issues with a series of American officials. On Thursday Cohen met with a number of Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Brett McGurk, who is the National Security Council’s Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

The following day, the Mossad chief visited the White House to discuss a variety of “regional security issues” with Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns. It was during that meeting, according to reports from Israel’s Channel 12 television, that the US president “dropped in” unexpectedly, allegedly in order to express his administration’s condolences for the fatal stampede that killed dozens in Israel last week. Biden’s unexpected appearance at the meeting was later confirmed by a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

During the weekend, however, a number of Israeli news outlets, as well as the American website Axios, cited “a senior Israeli official” who said that Biden’s appearance at the meeting was not an impromptu incident, but had actually been “pre-scheduled”. The US president wanted to “discuss Iran” with Cohen, according to Axios, and did so for “about an hour”. According to Israeli sources, Cohen shared Israel’s position that “it would be a mistake for the US to return to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] without improving it first”. Biden did not directly respond to Cohen’s view of the agreement, but said that his administration was not yet ready to re-enter the agreement. He reportedly added that Washington would consult Israel on the matter.

Neither the White House nor the office of the Israeli prime minster have commented on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 May 2021 | Permalink

Jordanian news agency claims Mossad involvement in helping alleged coup plotter

A NEWS AGENCY IN Jordan has said that a man with alleged ties to Israeli intelligence offered protection to Hamzah bin Hussein, half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who is reportedly under house arrest in Amman. Prince Hamzah is among at least 16 members of the Jordanian royal family and other senior officials, who were apparently arrested last week, with the government claiming soon afterwards that a coup to depose the country’s monarch had been averted.

Hours after his arrest, Prince Hamzah’s family leaked a video to the BBC, in which the King’s half-brother said he was under house arrest, and blamed the ruling family for corruption and for incompetence in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Hamzah was Jordan’s crown prince until 2004, when he was stripped of his title by his half-brother. King Abdullah II has ruled the Hashemite Kingdom since the 1999 passing of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for nearly 50 years.

Hamzah claimed in the leaked video that he was being punished for participating in meetings in which Jordan’s “ruling system” had been criticized. This emerging dispute is rare in Jordan, as the royal family is extremely private and the media are strongly discouraged from reporting about internal splits and other disagreements among senior royals. This development also points to potential sources of instability in one of the Middle East’s few stable political entities. Critics claim that Jordan’s stability is an apparition that masks growing social angst amidst a state-run system of censorship.

On Sunday, Jordan’s largest news agency, Ammon, cited an “informed source” in claiming that an Israeli businessman made contact with Hamzah’s family and offered to fly them out of Jordan using a private airplane. The report also claimed that the businessman, Roy Shaposhnik, had previously been associated with Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. Shaposhnik served as an adviser to Israel’s former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, but is today primarily known for his company, RS Logistical Solutions, which is contracted for services by governments around the world.

In a subsequent media interview, Shaposhnik reportedly confirmed that he had offered to help Hamzah, because he was his “close personal friend”. But he denied ever having worked for the Mossad, saying he is simply “an Israeli living in Europe. I never served in any role in the Israeli intelligence services”. On Sunday, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, said that the alleged coup plot was “an internal Jordanian issue”, but added that Israel was “prepared to assist Jordan as necessary” and cited the close security ties between Israel and Jordan.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 April 2021 | Permalink

American spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard gives rare interview to Israeli newspaper

Jonathan Pollard

JONATHAN POLLARD, AN AMERICAN who spied on his country for Israel in the 1980s, and is now free after spending 30 years in prison, has given a rare interview to Israel Hayom, Israel’s most widely distributed newspaper. Pollard, who is now 66, is a former intelligence analyst for the United States Navy. He was released from an American prison in 2015, after serving a lengthy sentence for selling US government secrets to Israel. Throughout Pollard’s time in prison, the government of Israel lobbied for his release, but failed to have Pollard freed prior to serving the entirety of his sentence. Initially barred from leaving the United States, the former spy was eventually allowed to relocate to Israel by the administration of US President Donald Trump. He and his wife arrived in Israel in December, where they received a hero’s welcome.

A few snippets from Pollard’s interview with Israel Hayom were published on Monday. The paper said that the full interview, edited for brevity, will be published on Friday. In his comments, Pollard defends his decision to share US government secrets with Israel as a “duty” that he says he felt compelled to carry out, claiming: “I know I crossed a line, but I had no choice”. He adds that Washington was “stabbing Israel in the back” by refusing to share intelligence about Arab militaries, which included “serious” threats to the security of the Jewish state.

Pollard claims that he secretly managed to warn his Israeli recruiter, Aviem Sella, who did not have diplomatic immunity in the United States, and who was able to escape arrest in the US. Sella was pardoned by the Trump administration late last year. But Pollard also criticizes the decision of the Israelis to not give him protection at their embassy in Washington, DC, where Pollard tried to claim asylum as he was being followed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The former spy also describes his life in Israel as “wonderful” and says he can tell the Israeli people see him as “someone [who] was willing to sacrifice his life for them”.

Israel Hayom, which interviewed Pollard, was founded by the Sheldon Adelson, an American casino magnate who was a major financial backer of Donald Trump until his death in January of this year. Adelson was also a major supporter of Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Associated Press notes that Adelson sent his private plane fly Pollard and his wife to Israel in December, after the former spy was permitted to leave American soil by the Trump administration.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 March 2021 | Permalink

Israel behind mysterious attacks on Iranian oil tankers, report claims

Iran oil tanker

THE ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE SERVICES are behind a series of mysterious attacks that have damaged Iranian oil tankers in the past 24 months, according to a new report that cites sources in the international shipping industry. The report, which appeared last week in The Wall Street Journal, cites a number of “shipping professionals” and “regional officials”, but does not name them.

The paper claims that the Israeli government decided to target the Iranian oil tankers after it concluded that Tehran uses the proceeds from oil sales to fund groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Most of the damaged ships were attempting to deliver oil to Syria in violation of a host of international sanctions against Iran, which are led by the United States. Washington appears to be quietly supporting the Israeli attacks on Iranian ships, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The article cites an anonymous shipping industry professionals as claiming that at least three Iranian oil tankers sustained serious damage following Israeli attacks in 2019, while at least six more Iranian ships were struck by Israel in 2020. All nine ships were transporting oil. There is no information about alleged attacks on Iranian oil tankers in 2021, with the exception of one Iranian vessel that was targeted by a group of divers who allegedly planted a limpet mine on its keel in February of this year.

None of the Iranian ships that were allegedly attacked by Israel sunk as a result, said The Wall Street Journal. However, all sustained significant damage and were forced to return to Iranian ports. As a result, Iran’s ability to deliver oil to Syria has been severely disrupted in the past two years, said the paper.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 March 2021 | Permalink

Trump pardons alleged recruiter of US Navy analyst who spied for Israel

Jonathan PollardDURING HIS LAST DAY in office, United States President Donald Trump issued a federal pardon for Aviem Sella, an Israeli former intelligence officer, who allegedly recruited Jonathan Pollard, an American who sold secrets to Israel. Pollard was released in November of 2015, after serving a 30-year sentence for being what US government prosecutors called “one of the most damaging spies in American history”. The convicted spy recently relocated to Israel, where many see him as a national hero.

In 1987, along with Pollard, the US government indicted Sella, accusing him of recruiting and helping handle Pollard on behalf of Israeli intelligence. Sella, who today is 75, was a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force. He allegedly began working for Israeli intelligence in the early 1980s. He left the US just days before Pollard was arrested while trying to enter the grounds of the Israeli embassy in Washington, seeking political protection. Israel refused to extradite him to the US and refused to charge him with a crime.

But in his last day in office yesterday, President Trump included Sella’s name in a list of 144 names of individuals to whom he granted last-minute federal pardons. In a statement, the White House explained Trump’s decision by saying that Israel had “issued a full and unequivocal apology [for Pollard’s spying], and has requested the pardon in order to close this unfortunate chapter in US-Israeli relations”. In a statement issued a few hours later, Pollard and his Israeli wife, Esther, said they were “truly happy” about Trump’s decision. They went on to day that pardoning Sella “puts an end to the affair’s bleeding wounds after 35 years”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 January 2021 | Permalink | Thanks to A.B. for corrections

Isaac Shoshan, Israeli undercover operative and case officer, dead at 96

MossadIsaac Shoshan, an Israeli undercover operative, who was involved in some of Israel’s most daring and controversial intelligence operations for over 40 years, has died. In 1990, Shoshan co-authored the book Men of Secrets, Men of Mystery with another Israeli former intelligence officer, Rafi Sutton. In 2019, his career was featured in the book Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, written by the Israeli-Canadian journalist Matti Friedman.

In 1942, Shoshan, a Syrian Jew, traveled for the first time from his native Aleppo to Palestine, which was then under a British mandate. The 18-year-old was soon recruited by the Palmach, the intelligence wing of the Haganah, an armed underground Zionist organization. He carried out undercover work under the Palmach’s so-called ‘Arab Section’, or ‘Arab Platoon’, which consisted of Zionist paramilitaries and intelligence collectors who had grown up speaking Arabic.

After undergoing Islamic religious and cultural training, Shoshan participated in a Palmach operation to kill Sheikh Nimr al-Khatib, in early 1948. Al-Khatib was a Palestinian warlord that the Haganah feared would lead an Arab insurrection against Israel after the impending British withdrawal from Palestine. Although the assassination operation failed, al-Khatib was seriously injured and effectively incapacitated for the rest of his life.

Shoshan was then tasked with carrying out operations in several Arab countries, posing as an Arab. His base was Beirut, where he operated a taxi and worked at a kiosk as a cover. His activities included an elaborate assassination operation against Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Riad al-Suhl, which was aborted at the last minute by the Israeli leadership.

In the mid-1950s, Israeli intelligence disbanded its Arab units, following several failed operations, such as the so-called ‘Lavon affair’, which led to the arrests and executions of some of its undercover operatives. At that time, Shoshan was recalled to Israel, where he began to work as a case officer, with occasional undercover trips abroad, during which he posed as an Arab. He retired in 1982, but continued to carry out contracting work for the Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies until the late 1980s.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 January 2021 | Permalink

Mossad helped Syrian intelligence official flee to Austria, despite alleged crimes

BVT AustriaA SYRIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL, who was denied political asylum in France due to claims he committed serious war crimes, received protection from Austria with assistance from Israel, according to a report. This was revealed on Sunday by British newspaper The Telegraph, which said it had been given the information by “a judicial source”.

The Syrian official in question is Khaled al-Halabi, a former Brigadier General in the Syrian Military Intelligence Directorate (MID). He served as head of the MID in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa amidst the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011. But in 2013, as the civil war became fiercer, al-Halabi defected from Syria and took his family to France, where applied for political asylum.

Two years later, al-Halabi was notified by the French authorities that his application for political asylum had been denied, due to serious concerns that he had been involved in criminal acts against opponents of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, soon after being notified that his application for asylum had been rejected, al-Halabi mysteriously disappeared from France, and was never seen there again.

According to The Telegraph, while waiting for a decision from the French authorities in regards to his application for asylum, al-Halabi was negotiating with the Israeli external intelligence agency, the Mossad. The Israeli spy agency allegedly whisked al-Halabi away from France and took him to nearby Austria. Once there, al-Halabi went into the custody of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT), Austria’s primary intelligence agency.

In December of 2015, al-Halabi was granted asylum in Austria, and today he is believed to live in Vienna, in a four-bedroom apartment provided to him by the Austrian government. The decision by the Austrian government to give the former Syrian spy official asylum made headlines in Austria in October, causing significant controversy. This is because at least one lawsuit has been filed against al-Halabi for his alleged participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Syrian Civil War, according to The Telegraph.

But the alleged involvement of the Mossad in al-Halabi’s case was not known until last Sunday. If true, the Mossad’s role in this case could signify that al-Halabi had established a relationship with the Israeli spy agency prior to his defection from Syria in 2013. According to the Austrian press, al-Halabi denies that he was involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 December 2020 | Permalink

%d bloggers like this: