Many see Israel behind May 22 killing of Iranian paramilitary leader in Tehran

IRGC IranA GROWING NUMBER OF security observers point to Israel as the most likely culprit behind the assassination of a leading member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s powerful paramilitary force. Brigadier General Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, who was killed in broad daylight in Tehran on May 22, served as deputy director of the Quds Force, a major branch of the IRGC. The mission of the Quds Force is to carry out unconventional warfare, especially in support of IRGC operations against adversaries abroad.

Observers regularly describe the IRGC as a ‘praetorian guard’ that operates inside Iran’s governing apparatus. Today the IRGC is a military force with a command structure that is distinct from Iran’s regular Armed Forces. It maintains its own army, navy and air force, has its own paramilitary and political protection units, and oversees Iran’s nuclear program. The IRGC’s weapons development falls under the duties of the Quds Force, in which Khodaei was a leading figure. He was also known to have been closely mentored by IRGC Commander Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the United States in 2020.

Kodaei was assassinated in broad daylight on May 22, as he was heading home from his office in downtown Tehran, located a few blocks from the main building of Iran’s Consultative Assembly. According to eyewitness reports, Kodaei’s vehicle was rapidly approached by two individuals riding on a motorbike. They sped away seconds after shooting Kodaei five times, killing him almost instantly. The entrance to the street where Kodaei was attacked was allegedly blocked by a white van, which also sped away following the shooting.

Israel is known for carrying out assassinations of Iranian officials using motorbikes, which can move with relative ease in the congested streets of Tehran. IntelNews regulars will recall that Israeli intelligence claimed last month to have detained and interrogated an alleged Iranian assassin named Mansour Rasouli. A video of his alleged testimony emerged, which was reportedly filmed at a Mossad safehouse somewhere in Iran. Meanwhile, Kodaei’s assassins remain at large.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 May 2022 | Permalink

In rare move, Israel identifies special operations officer killed in Gaza Strip raid

IDF Gaza Strip HamasIN A RARE MOVE, Israel released the identity last weekend of a special operations officer who was killed by Islamic Hamas during a 2018 covert mission in the Gaza Strip. As intelNews reported at the time, an undercover team of Israeli operatives was exfiltrated by helicopter from Gaza on November 11, 2018. The exfiltration took place after the Israelis were spotted by members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which is part of Hamas’ armed wing.

The incident was followed by a barrage of nearly 500 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The Israelis responded by firing more than 160 missiles that fell throughout the Palestinian enclave. Hostilities were halted on November 13, when Hamas declared a unilateral ceasefire brokered by Egypt. The incident prompted the resignation of Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman. At the time, the Israel Defense Forces, which were behind the botched operation, refused to comment on the team’s mission, admitting only that its troops “operated […] in the Gaza Strip”.

It was said at the time that the members of the undercover team were dressed in civilian clothes and that at least two of them were disguised as women. After entering Gaza in a civilian Volkswagen vehicle, they drove to Khan Yunis, a city in the south of the Strip, near the Egyptian border. It was there that they were discovered by the al-Qassam Brigades, who stopped them at a checkpoint, asking for identification. The Israeli team opened fire using a silenced gun. Following a high-speed car chase, the Israelis left via helicopter. Their abandoned Volkswagen car was then blown up by an Israeli fighter jet.

On Sunday, the IDF declassified the name of the fallen officer. It also released a photograph of the man, who has been identified as Lt. Col. Mahmoud Kheir el-Din, 41, from Galilee. A member of Israel’s Druze community, el-Din served in the Mista’arvim, a counter-terrorism unit of the IDF’s Special Operations division that is trained to capture or assassinate targets in enemy territory. El-Din joined the IDF’s Special Operations division in 2002, after having served as a platoon commander.

The IDF also provided limited details about the botched operation that led to el-Din’s death. It claims that el-Din “physically confronted” one of the Hamas operatives, thus giving another one of the Israeli soldiers the opportunity to open fire and kill seven Hamas members. El-Din was killed during the shootout, according to the IDF. The Israeli government said the decision to release el-Din’s identity was coordinated with his family. It added, however, that it does not plan to release further details about the botched operation.

Author: Ian Alen | Date: 17 May 2022 | Permalink

West German intelligence infiltrated Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel, documents show

BND GermanyWEST GERMAN SPIES INFILTRATED the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust, in order to limit its damage on the reputation of senior West German politicians who had a Nazi past. Eichmann was the lead author of the system of mass deportation of Jews from ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe to extermination camps, where millions of them were brutally killed. In 1960, after years of hiding, he was captured in Argentina by agents of the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, and secretly transported to Israel, where he was put to trial and eventually hanged.

Since 2011, new files on the West German response to Eichmann’s abduction and trial have been uncovered by the Independent Commission of Historians to Research the History of the Federal Intelligence Service, 1945-1968. The Independent Commission consists of professional historians, who have been granted near-complete access into the archives of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND). Known as Bundesnachrichtendienst, the BND conducts foreign intelligence, making it Germany’s equivalent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The project has been praised as a rare case of openness and transparency in historical research into the activities and operations of a still-functioning intelligence agency.

Led by Professor Klaus-Dietmar Henke, the Independent Commission has published 15 volumes of research on the BND. The latest release concerns (among other things) Hans Globke, a senior official in Germany’s Nazi-era Ministry of the Interior, who was eventually appointed to the Office for Jewish Affairs. From that post, Globke helped draft the legislation, known as the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935. These laws gave legal sanctuary to the exclusion of Germany’s Jewish population from political, commercial and other social activity. The same laws were eventually used to confiscate assets belonging to Jewish German citizens.

After the war, Globke closely aligned himself with the British forces and became testified as a witness in the prosecution of senior Nazi war criminals. He rebuilt his political career, initially on the local level, and eventually as Chief of Staff to the Office of the Chancellor of West Germany. He also served as West Germany’s Secretary of State, promoting a pro-Atlanticist foreign policy that closely aligned Western Germany with the United States.

According to the latest release by the Independent Commission, Globke tasked the BND with infiltrating Eichmann’s trial, in order to limit the details exposed about the Nazi government during the trial proceedings. The primary goal of the operation, according to the new information, was to prevent even the mention of Globke’s name during Eichmann’s trial. If that was not achieved, the aim was to protect Globke’s reputation and shield the public from details about his Nazi past, especially relating to the Holocaust.

When asked about the revelation, a spokesperson for the BND refused to comment on it, saying only that “the draft results of the independent historical commission speak for themselves”. A spokesperson for the German federal government appeared to reject a call to withdraw a number of civilian medals and other honors that Globke was bestowed prior to his death. According to the spokesperson, German law does not have provisions for “posthumous withdrawal” of awards.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 May 2022 | Permalink

Mossad allegedly uncovered Iranian plot to kill Israeli, American officials abroad

Israeli consulate Istanbul TurkeyISRAEL’S MOSSAD INTELLIGENCE AGENCY allegedly foiled a plot by Iranian intelligence to send assassins abroad and kill an Israeli diplomat, an American military official and a French reporter, according to reports. The information about the alleged plot first surfaced late last week in the Iran International News Channel, a British-based Iranian news agency, which is opposed to the government in Tehran. The news agency claimed that the plot had been organized by the Quds Force, the paramilitary wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Shortly after news of the alleged plot emerged, Israeli media reported the existence of a video of an Iranian man who identifies himself as Mansour Rasouli (or Rassouli). In the video, the man claims to be a member of Unit 840, the part of the Quds Force that plans and executes operations overseas. He also claims that he was paid $150,000 to plan the assassination of an Israeli consular official in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as an American military general stationed in Turkey. A third target for assassination was a Jewish French journalist. The names of the alleged targets are not known. He adds that he had planned to carry out the assassinations with the use of networks of drug smugglers.

Rasouli then claims that the Quds Force had promised to pay him an additional $1 million following the successful conclusion of the assassinations. Toward the end of his statement, Rasouli says he had made an “error of judgment” in agreeing to participate in the operation, and promises to refrain from targeting individuals for assassination in the future. According to Iran International, Rasouli’s interview was filmed by officers of the Mossad in Turkey, where he was allegedly captured before he was able to execute the first of the planned assassinations. However, Israeli media later claimed that the Mossad officers filmed the interview in Iran, during a covert operation that resulted in the capture and interrogation of Rasouli.

IntelNews readers will recall that, in October of last year, Israel accused Iran of being behind a plot to kill Israeli citizens in Cyprus. The accusation came after the arrest of an Azeri national, who was reportedly found carrying a gun fitted with a silencer in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. A year earlier, it was reported that American intelligence agencies had uncovered an Iranian plot to kill the United States’ ambassador to South Africa, in an effort to avenge the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the United States in January of 2020.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 May 2022 | Permalink

Mossad targeted cell phones ‘unofficially’ with Pegasus software, report alleges

NSO GroupISRAEL’S EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, the Mossad, made unofficial use of the Pegasus spyware, whose developer has been sanctioned by the United States government, according to a report from Israel. NSO Group Technologies was one of two Israeli firms that were placed on a US Department of Commerce sanctions list last November. According to a statement issued by the US Department of Commerce, the two firms engaged “in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

The move followed revelations about a spy software known as Pegasus, which is marketed by NSO Group. Pegasus is able to install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link or download an application. Upon installation, the software provides the spying party with near-complete control of a targeted telephone. This includes the ability to browse through the device’s contents, such as photographs and videos, record conversations, as well as activate the telephone’s built-in microphone and camera at any time, without its user’s consent or knowledge.

Now a report by Haaretz, one of Israel’s leading newspapers, alleges that, under its previous director, Yossi Cohen, the Mossad worked closely with NSO Group Technologies. Citing NSO Group “employees, who asked to remain anonymous”, Haaretz alleges that Mossad officials “frequently visited the company headquarters in Herzliya”, in the northern outskirts of Tel Aviv. Initially, the Mossad officials sought to learn about the uses and capabilities of the spy software, according to Haaretz. Later, however, they began to bring with them foreign officials from countries like Saudi Arabia and Angola, whose governments were interested in acquiring the software.

On “several occasions”, the Mossad officials asked NSO Group to make use Pegasus in order to “hack certain phones” on behalf of the Mossad. It is not known whether this was because NSO Group’s spyware was more advanced than the Mossad’s spyware, or whether the spy agency was engaged in “unofficial intelligence gathering”, says Haaretz. The paper adds that, under its current director, David Barnea, the Mossad has distanced itself from NSO Technologies.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 February 2022 | Permalink

Iranian websites use fake Israeli contact data to lure spies, researchers claim

Computer hackingA NUMBER OF WEBSITES sponsored through Google Ads, which seek to hire Iran and Hezbollah experts for “research and consultancies” in Israel, are part of an Iranian counterintelligence program, according to observers. The investigative news website Daily Beast said on Monday it discovered at least 16 such websites, all of which appear to employ the same language, visuals, as well as telephone numbers with Israeli area codes.

The websites’ stated purpose is to employ individuals with inside knowledge of Iranian intelligence and security, as well as individuals with a background in Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The prospective employers claim to be Israeli “consultancy” firms, with names such as “VIP Human Solutions”. The latter describes itself as a “VIP center for recruitment of the most distinguished in the military and security services of Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon”, according to the Daily Beast.

The websites feature Israeli flag visuals, and claim to be associated with recognizable think-tanks and media organizations, including the Gatestone Institute, the Begin-Sadat Center, the Jerusalem Post and Business Insider. However, these purported connections appear to be fictitious and to be designed to give those websites an air of legitimacy. In reality they appear to be hosted by an obscure Bulgarian web hosting company. At times they disappear, but then reappear under a different title and domain name. The oldest among them has been active for just over four years.

The Daily Beast cites a number of Iran observers, as well as intelligence insiders in the United States and elsewhere, who claim that the websites are part of a sting operation by Iranian counterintelligence. They share a number of “behavioral similarities” to prior phishing campaigns perpetrated by hacker groups with documented links to Iranian intelligence agencies, according to the Daily Beast. The purpose of the websites is to lure unsuspecting Iranian and Lebanese nationals who aspire to provide information to Israel in exchange for money, according to the report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel busts alleged Iranian spy ring made up of middle-aged women

Shin BetAUTHORITIES IN ISRAEL CLAIM they busted a ring of spies for Iran, which was composed solely of middle-aged Jewish women. The Israel Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, said on Thursday that it had arrested four Jewish women, all of them Iranian-born Israeli citizens. The four women were charged with espionage against the state of Israel. The Shin Bet described the case as “serious” and as part of a broader plan by Iran to build a sophisticated espionage network inside the Jewish state.

According to news reports, the women were recruited via the Facebook social networking platform by a user using the name Rambod Namdar. Namdar claimed to be a Jewish man living in Iran. After recruiting the women, Namdar operated as their handler, and provided them with regular payments in exchange for taking photographs of sensitive military sites and civilian government buildings. According to the Shin Bet, these included the buildings of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. The women were allegedly also asked to take photographs of the embassy of the United States, as well as commercial facilities, including shopping malls.

At least two of the women were asked to befriend Israeli politicians and government officials, according to the Shin Bet. The agency also claims that the women were asked to convince their sons to serve their mandatory military service by joining military intelligence units. In one case, according to the indictment, the son of one of the women did serve in an intelligence post in the Israeli military, which allowed his mother to pass a number of military documents to her Iranian handler.

Reports in the Israeli media and the BBC mention that Namdar communicated with the four women “for several years” using the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. WhatsApp is owned by Meta, the same company that owns Facebook and Instagram.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel likely behind 1981 bombings of German, Swiss engineering firms, expert claims

MossadISRAEL’S PRIMARY EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, was likely behind a series of mysterious bombings in 1981, which targeted German and Swiss engineering firms believed to be aiding the Pakistani nuclear program, according to new exposé by a leading Swiss newspaper. Several bomb attacks targeted a number of engineering firms in Switzerland and what was then West Germany in 1981. Alongside these attacks, there were threatening telephone calls that targeted West German and Swiss engineers.

A previously unknown militant group calling itself the Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia took responsibility for these actions. Its members mailed a number of political manifestos to the German and Swiss press, and repeatedly issue proclamations via telephone in broken German or English, according to contemporary accounts. Interestingly, the Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia has never been heard of since.

Now, however, one of Switzerland’s leading newspapers, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), claims in a new report that the violent actions against German and Swiss scientists and engineering firms were likely undertaken by the Israeli Mossad. In a leading article published on Saturday, the Swiss daily cited “new, previously unseen documents from archives” in Switzerland and the United States, which allegedly shed light on these mysterious attacks.

The report rests partly on the work of Swiss historian Adrian Hänni, who argues that Israeli intelligence was eager to prevent Pakistan from acquiring access to nuclear energy. The prospect of Pakistan becoming the first Muslim-majority nuclear state was viewed by Israel as an “existential threat”, according to Hänni. Additionally, the Mossad had credible information that senior officials in Islamabad worked closely with the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of Israel’s mortal regional enemies. These factors convinced the Israeli leadership of the time to authorize a covert operation against a number of European firms and scientists who were allegedly aiding Islamabad’s pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, according to the NZZ.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 January 2022 | Permalink

Cell phones of leading Polish opposition figures hacked by government, group claims

Civic Coalition PolandCENTRAL FIGURES OF POLAND’S opposition coalition, which narrowly lost the 2019 parliamentary election, had their cell phones hacked with a surveillance software used by the country’s spy services, according to a new report. A major target of the hacks was Krzysztof Brejza, a member of the lower chamber of the Polish parliament and campaign director of the Civic Coalition, a centrist-liberal alliance. In the parliamentary election of 2019, the Civic Coalition challenged the all-powerful Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has ruled Poland for much of the past decade.

The PiS is a populist pro-Russian party that opposes many of the core policies of the European Union, of which Poland is a member. In contrast, the Civil Coalition is pro-Western and supports Poland’s integration into the European Union. In 2019, while the two parties were competing in a feverish electoral campaign, Poland’s state-owned television aired a number of texts acquired from Brejza’s phone, in what the opposition decried as a “smear campaign”. Eventually, the PiS won the election with a narrow majority.

The information about Brejza’s cell phone hack was revealed last week by Citizen Lab, a research unit of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, which focuses on information technology, international security and human rights. According to the report, at least three senior figures in the Civil Coalition were under telephonic surveillance throughout the election campaign. Brejza’s cell phone was breached over 30 times between April and October of 2019, according to Citizen Lab. The other two victims of the surveillance operation were Ewa Wrzosek, a public prosecutor and leading critic of the PiS, as well as Roman Giertych, an attorney who represents leading members of the Civic Coalition.

The report claims that the surveillance against the Civil Coalition members was facilitated by Pegasus, a controversial spyware that is sold to governments around the world by NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli digital surveillance company based near Tel Aviv. Earlier this year, the United States government blacklisted NSO Group Technologies, in a move that surprised many in Israel and beyond. Meanwhile, on December 24, the Polish government denied it had any role in the phone hacking affair. Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, dismissed the Citizen Lab revelations as “fake news”.

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

Israeli ex-intelligence chief claims Israel had role in top Iranian general’s killing

Qasem SoleimaniTHE RECENTLY RETIRED DIRECTOR of Israel’s military intelligence agency has claimed in an interview that Israel had a role in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who led Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani was arguably Iran’s most revered military official. He was killed by an American targeted drone strike on January 3, 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq. The same missile strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who commanded the Popular Mobilization Committee, an umbrella organization composed of around 40 pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. The then-American president, Donald Trump, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the months that followed Soleimani’s assassination, Iranian state media claimed that the operation that targeted the IRGC had been aided with intelligence and logistical support by the governments of several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon. Meanwhile, reports by Western media alleged that “[i]ntelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of Soleimani’s whereabouts shortly before he was assassinated. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims.

Now, however, it appears that a recently retired Israeli general, who headed the country’s military intelligence agency during Soleimani’s assassination, has claimed partial responsibility for his killing. According to the Associated Press, Major General Tamir Heyman, who until October of this year headed the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate, has become “the first official to confirm Israel’s involvement” in the controversial assassination.

Heyman is believed to have given an interview in late September to Mabalat Malam, the Hebrew-language magazine of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center, which is seen as closely affiliated with the Israeli intelligence community. In the interview, which is available in the current issue of the magazine, Heyman says that “Assassinating Soleimani was an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians”. He adds that Soleimani’s killing was one of “two significant and important assassinations during my term” as head of army intelligence.

The Associated Press is among a number of news agencies that reached out to the IDF for clarification about Heyman’s comments. As of Tuesday night, the IDF had not responded to several requests for comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 December 2021 | Permalink

Israeli television channel to air details of ex-Mossad chief’s alleged affair

Yossi Cohen and Benjamin NetnayahuAN ISRAELI TELEVISION CHANNEL has said it will be airing details about an alleged extramarital affair involving the former director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen. Cohen, 59, who has four children, served as director of the Mossad from 2015 until earlier this year. Last summer, the privately owned Channel 13 television reported that Cohen had “a close relationship” for the past two years with a woman who was not his wife, and who was believed to be a flight attendant. The report added that a complaint about the affair had been handed over to Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, who was reviewing it.

At the time Cohen denied he had an extramarital affair, saying: “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. In its report back in the summer, 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.

Now, however, Channel 13 says it will be airing a detailed report about the alleged extramarital affair, on Tuesday, December 21. According to preview clips, the channel’s investigative program, HaMakor, will claim that the affair began in 2018, while Cohen was director of the Mossad. What is more, the program will feature an interview with Guy Shiker, a well-known Israeli financier, who is allegedly the husband of the flight attendant.

In his interview, Shiker tells HaMakor that Cohen bragged to him and his wife about Mossad operations, and shared with them details of spy programs that were almost certainly classified. In a written response, Cohen told the television channel that he never shared any classified information with the couple or with anyone else, and that he did not divulge any operational details that he was not authorized to disclose during his tenure in the Mossad.

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

Israel Security Agency uses Facebook to reach out to young Palestinians – report

Israeli West Bank barrier

AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED LAST month in one of Israel’s leading newspapers, Haaretz, shed light on how the Israel Security Agency (ISA) is using Facebook to combat militant groups in the Palestinian occupied territories, namely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the article’s author, Amira Hess, the ISA operates about 35 Arabic-language profile pages on Facebook, which are accessible in the various Palestinian areas under Israeli occupation.

ISA case officers (agent handlers) with Arabic monikers are in charge of various regions. For example, the officer in charge of the Hebron area is known as “Captain Eid”, the officer in charge of the Al-Amari refugee camp is known as “Captain Zaker”, and so on. Every Facebook profile page has a telephone number for users to send messages using WhatsApp. In addition, a general Facebook page of the ISA was opened under the heading in Arabic, “Badna Naish” (“Want to Live” in Arabic).

The transition to using Facebook pages is in the spirit of the times, and reflects the fact that many younger Palestinians receive their daily news through social networks, and not through traditional media, such as radio or television. The purpose of the ISA’s open-referral method using Facebook is to talk to the Palestinian population directly, and especially to the younger generation, who is very active on social networks. This also allows social media users to pass on security information to thwart terrorist attacks without disclosing their identity. The Facebook pages also serve the ISA as a tool for recruiting Palestinians who are willing to help Israel.

Additionally, the ISA uses Facebook’s pages to warn Palestinians who plan terrorist acts before they go into action. Here are some examples of the use of Facebook’s pages: In March of this year, an ISA case officer using the moniker “Captain Eid” wrote on his Facebook page covering the Hebron area that he called several masked men who fired shots in the air while welcoming the released terrorist Mahmoud Hushia, and warned them that their identities were known. “In their deeds, they will be punished. Please stay away from unnecessary problems”, wrote Captain Eid. Read more of this post

Israeli Mossad targeted Iran nuclear plant with three-pronged assault, report claims

Natanz Iran

THE NATANZ ENRICHMENT FACILITY, which lies at the heart of the Iranian nuclear program, has repeatedly been the target of a multi-pronged sabotage operation by Israeli intelligence, according to a new report. The existence of the hardened fuel enrichment plant near the city of Natanz, in Iran’s Esfahan Province, was first acknowledged in 2002, when it was revealed by an Iranian whistleblower. In July 2020 and April 2021, Iranian authorities acknowledged that the facility had suffered major damage, reportedly due to acts of sabotage.

New a new report, published on Thursday in the London-based journal The Jewish Chronicle, claims that the Israeli agency Mossad was behind the sabotage in Natanz, which allegedly destroyed 90 percent of the plant’s nuclear centrifuges. The journal said that a team of over 1,000 technicians, intelligence analysts and operations officers was behind the attacks. The latter were carried out in a variety of ways that included infiltrating supply chains, recruiting Iranian scientists, and deploying a so-called suicide drone.

According to the The Jewish Chronicle, in 2019 the Mossad managed to infiltrate the supply chains used by Iran to build additions to several buildings and underground facilities in Natanz. Consequently, Israeli intelligence operatives posing as construction material wholesalers were able to supply building materials to Iranian government officials, which were “filled with […] explosives”. These were detonated remotely in July 2020, causing substantial damage to the nuclear plant.

At around the same time, Mossad officers posing as Iranian dissidents began recruiting Iranian scientists working at Natanz. The Chronicle cites an unnamed source who says that “the scientists’ motivations were all different” and that the Mossad offered each of them “what they deeply wanted in their lives”. The Mossad supplied the recruited scientists with explosives, which were dropped into the Natanz compound by drones, or smuggled inside boxes of catering supplies. The bombs were “remotely set off” in April 2021 and almost completely destroyed Natanz’s A1000 underground centrifuge hall, which is buried beneath 12 meters of reinforced concrete. Following the attack, 10 Iranian scientists were “spirited away to a safe location. All of them are safe today”, according to the unnamed source.

Two months later, a third attack was carried out, this time against a manufacturing facility of the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company in the city of Karaj, which is located 30 miles northwest of the Iranian capital Tehran. The attack was reportedly carried out with the use of a loitering munition —also known as a suicide drone— the size of a motorcycle. Mossad operatives had previously managed to smuggle the device into Iran in small components, which were then re-assembled.

The Chronicle reports that the attacks against the Natanz nuclear plant were carried out by Israeli spies without the participation of American intelligence agencies. The journal also claims that Israel recently put in motion “a new policy of launching covert attacks on Iranian soil in retaliation for its meddling in the region”. This means that “further undercover operations [inside Iran] are in the pipeline”, the report concludes.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 November 2021 | Permalink

Israel wants United States to lift sanctions on controversial cyber-spy firms

Computer hacking

THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL is pressuring the United States to reverse its recent decision to blacklist two controversial digital surveillance companies, which Israel sees as “a crucial element of its foreign policy”. The US Department of Commerce placed the two firms, NSO Group Technologies and Candiru, on a sanctions list on November 3. According to a statement issued by the US Department of Commerce, the two firms engaged “in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

The move followed revelations of a spy software known as Pegasus, which is marketed by NSO Group. As intelNews and others reported back in July, Pegasus is able to install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link or download an application. Upon installation, the software provides the spying party with near-complete control of a targeted telephone. This includes the ability to browse through the device’s contents, such as photographs and videos, record conversations, as well as activate the telephone’s built-in microphone and camera at any time, without its user’s consent or knowledge.

The US is among several Western governments that have criticized the Pegasus software as a malicious tool used by some of NSO Group’s customers to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers”. Software tools such as Pegasus have enabled a host of governments around the world to “conduct transnational repression [by] targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent”, according to the US Department of Commerce.

According to The New York Times, however, the government of Israel supports the work of NSO Group and Candiru, and “sees the Pegasus software as a crucial element of its foreign policy”. The Israelis were thus “alarmed” by Washington’s decision to blacklist the two firms, and are determined to lobby the White House on their behalf. The goal of the Israeli government, according to the paper, is to convince the American administration that the activities of NSO and Candiru, “remain of great importance to the national security of both” Israel and the US. In return for the US reversing its decision to blacklist the companies, Israel is willing to exercise “much tighter supervision” of these and other similar firms, through its software-licensing system, according to The Times.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 November 2021 | Permalink

Mossad officials visited Sudan before coup, but had no warning, reports claim

Sudan civil unrest

A DELEGATION OF ISRAELI government officials, which likely included members of the Mossad spy agency, paid a secret visit to Sudan in the days prior to the October 25 coup d’état, but were given no indication of what was about to happen, according to reports from Israel. The Israeli delegation’s goal was to assess the Sudanese government’s ongoing interest in establishing bilateral relations with the Jewish state, according to Walla News, which is among Israel’s most popular news websites.

According to the report, the Israeli delegation held several meetings with leading Sudanese government officials, among them Abdel Rahim Hamdan Dagalo, a general in Sudan’s notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group. The RSF was a leading actor in the October 25 coup, which resulted in the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and most of his cabinet. In Hamdok’s place, the coup plotters installed Sudanese Army General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, who proceeded to declare a state of emergency and suspend civil liberties across the nation.

According to the report, the main purpose of the Israeli delegation’s secret visit was to assess the prospects of continuing normalization between Sudan and Israel —a process that began in early 2020 under American tutelage. Anonymous officials told Walla News that the Israeli delegation was given no indication by the Sudanese military officials that they were planning a coup d’état, though they could easily have expected it, given the volatile state of Sudanese politics in the past year.

It is worth pointing out that, as noted recently by The Times of Israel, although “much of the Western world has condemned the [Sudanese] coup, Israel has remained noticeably silent”. According to observers, this is likely the case because the Sudanese military, which carried out the October 25 coup, is the main supporter of normalizing Sudan’s relations with Israel. On the other hand, the civilian-led revolutionary movement, which helped topple Sudan’s longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, has been critical of Israel and has expressed strong support for the Palestinians.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 November 2021 | Permalink

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