Palestinians announce end of intelligence cooperation with US and Israel

Palestinian National Security ForcesThe Palestinian Authority has announced an immediate cessation to all intelligence and security ties with Israel and the United States. The announcement, made on Thursday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, marks the strongest response so far by the Fatah-dominated administration to the Israeli government’s plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, runs two intelligence agencies, the Palestinian Preventive Security (also known as the Preventive Security Service) and the General Intelligence Service. Both agencies are largely trained and funded by the United States and Israel. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has long assisted the two agencies, and has often benefited by intelligence-sharing aimed at a common adversary, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. In the past decade, American and Israeli intelligence agencies have worked closely with their Palestinian Authority counterparts to neutralize Hamas’ support in the West Bank.

But the Palestinian Authority has been threatening to terminate that longstanding security and intelligence cooperation, in response to an American-backed plan by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to annex large parts of the occupied territories in the West Bank. The annexed land contains illegal Israeli settlements, which the United States has condemned in the past. But the administration of President Donald Trump has reversed course and in May of 2018 even transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively recognizing the divided city as the capital of Israel. That move prompted the Palestinian Authority to cut all relations with Washington.

However, despite the political rift between the two sides, President Abbas had instructed the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence and security services to continue their cooperation with their Israeli and American counterparts. That ended on Thursday, as President Abbas announced that his administration would cease all intelligence and security cooperation with Israeli and American government agencies, effective immediately. Following Abbas’ announcement, the veteran Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat told reporters that direct cooperation with Israeli and American intelligence agencies had “stopped at the end of the president’s speech”. Erekat, who serves as secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization and is the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator with Israel, did not explain the extent of the cessation in cooperation. When asked, he responded that “the whole system is about to shut down […] in its entirety”.

In February it was reported that CIA director Gina Haspel had secretly visited Majed Faraj, director of the Preventive Security Organization, with the aim of convincing him not to terminate ties with her agency and other American intelligence bodies. The meeting reportedly took place in Ramallah, which is considered the seat of the Palestinian government in the West Bank. It appears, however, that Haspel’s efforts did not bear fruit, as all intelligence contacts between the two former partners have now been severed.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 May 2020 | Permalink

Israeli officials announce arrest of alleged deep-cover spy for Iran

Thaer Sha'afutIsraeli authorities announced on Thursday the arrest of a deep-cover intelligence operative who allegedly attempted to establish a base for Iranian intelligence in Israel and the West Bank, according to news reports from Israel. Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security and counterintelligence agency, said it arrested Thaer Sha’afut (pictured), a Jordanian national, on espionage charges. The arrest reportedly occurred in April, but was only announced this week. According to Shin Bet officials, Sha’afut was an accredited deep-cover intelligence operative for the Iranian spy services. He was allegedly was commissioned “to carry out missions that were meant to establish a network in Israel and the West Bank, which would be used for covert operations by the Iranians”.

Israeli officials said Sha’afut received instructions from his Iranian handlers to enter Israeli territory between July and August of 2018. After entering Israel, his goal was “to form business ties” in the West Bank and in Israel proper. He planned to do that, said the Shin Bet, by hiring Shiite Muslims to staff a new factory in Jordan and then use the new venture “as an anchor for future Iranian activities in Israel and the West Bank”. These activities included the eventual recruitment of “spies who would help collect intelligence for Iranian interests”, according to court documents. The Shin Bet said that Sha’afut’s handlers were two Arabic-speaking Iranian intelligence officers based in Lebanon and Syria, who went by the names Abu Sadek and Abu Jaffar. They allegedly provided Shafut with “an encrypted communication device”, which he used to arrange clandestine meetings with them throughout 2018 and 2019.

Sha’afut’s Iranian handlers allegedly planned to use him as a conduit for transferring funds to spies in the West Bank and Israel. They had told Sha’afut that Iranian intelligence would make an initial investment of $500,000 in his factory venture in Jordan and to an import-export business, in order to sustain his base of operations, with more funds to follow. Once the factory was set up, Sha’afut was expected to travel clandestinely to Iran in order to complete his training as a deep-cover case officer. Israeli daily Haaretz said on Thursday that Sha’afut was indicted earlier this month by military prosecutors in Jerusalem for “contact with an enemy country, contact with a hostile organization, and conspiracy to funnel money from an enemy entity”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 June 2019 | Permalink

French consular employee caught smuggling guns to Gaza using diplomatic car

French consulate in JerusalemAn employee of France’s consulate in Jerusalem is under arrest for allegedly smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, according to French media reports, which have been confirmed by Israel. The consular employee has been identified by the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, as Romain Franck, 23. He reportedly worked as a driver at the consulate, a job he managed to secure through a prestigious “international volunteer” program sponsored by the French government. The elite program allows recent French college graduates to gain work experience in various countries around the world. Although he had a relatively junior post at the French consulate, Franck carried a diplomatic passport, which allowed him to move through international borders without being searched, due to his diplomatic immunity privileges.

But, according to French newspaper Liberation, Franck was detained by Shin Bet officers on February 19 of this year, as he was trying to enter Israel from the Gaza Strip at the Erez border crossing. He was driving a car that bears French diplomatic license plates and belongs to the French consulate in Jerusalem. Inside the car, the Shin Bet officers reportedly found pistols and assault rifles. According to Liberation, Franck’s arrest has been kept secret. The Shin Bet admitted that the newspaper’s story was true on Tuesday afternoon. Franck reportedly told his Israeli captors that he had received the weapons from a Palestinian who worked at the French Cultural Center in Gaza. He then transported them over several trips to the West Bank, where other Palestinians picked them up, paid him, and sold them on to others.

Israel has reportedly arrested eight more people in connection with the gun running, all of whom are Palestinians. They include a Palestinian security guard at the French consulate. According to the Shin Bet, Franck was not ideologically or politically allied with Hamas, Fatah, or any other Palestinian group. Instead, he participated in the gun smuggling for financial gain. A spokesman at France’s embassy in Tel Aviv said that Paris was closely monitoring the incident and was “in close contact with the Israeli authorities on the matter”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 March 2018 | Permalink | Research credit: MF

News you may have missed #793

Yasser ArafatBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Britain recruits tech start-ups for spy gadgets. British security services seem to have decided to widen the net for suppliers of state-of-the-art spyware for “covert surveillance”. Traditionally, British intelligence organizations including MI5 and GCHQ, have relied on a network of trusted contractors. But the change in approach represents an opportunity for burgeoning technology companies. According to a senior Whitehall official, who spoke to The Financial Times, these agencies “are appealing to a wide range of innovators, small and large, and saying: ‘Here are some problems we encounter. Can you solve them?’”.
►►French investigators to exhume Arafat’s remains. Three French investigating magistrates will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank to exhume the remains of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat so they can take tissue samples to determine what killed him. New evidence emerged from an investigation in July by the Al Jazeera television network when the Institut de Radiophysique, in Lausanne, Switzerland, said it had discovered significant traces of the rare radioactive element polonium-210 on the late leader’s clothing and toothbrush.
►►Panetta speaks out against book on bin Laden killing. As former US Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette continues to make headlines about his book, No Easy Day, about the killing of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has spoken out publicly on the subject for the first time. The former Director of the CIA said “the American people have a right to know about this operation”. But, he added, “people who are a part of that operation, who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal the sensitive operations and not public anything […] when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise that they made to this country”.

News you may have missed #512

WikiLeaks revelations keep coming, but few pay attention



Most Western news outlets are now focusing almost exclusively on the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Few are paying attention to the details of Assange’s rape allegations in Sweden, which have sparked an interesting —though limited— debate about possible links between Assange’s accusers and American intelligence. Even fewer are paying attention to the actual US diplomatic cable revelations by WikiLeaks, which keep appearing daily, mostly in British quality broadsheet The Guardian (The New York Times has largely lost interest at this point). One such revelation, published on Monday, concerns allegations by the Director of the Shabat, also known as Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service), that Palestinian group Fatah asked Israel to attack rival Palestinian group Hamas, in 2007. The leaked cable claims Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin told US diplomats that Fatah, the secular Palestinian nationalist faction that controls the West Bank, was “demoralized” and “desperate” to halt the rapid rise of Islamic Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Diskin further told US officials that Fatah understood it could only survive with Israeli support, and had thus directly “asked us [Israel] to attack Hamas”. Perhaps more importantly, the leaked cable appears to confirm intense speculation among some intelligence observers that Fatah is “actively gathering information on behalf of Israeli intelligence”. Read more of this post

Israel intelligence source warns of West Bank collapse

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

A senior source inside Israel’s intelligence community has warned that the continuing building of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories could cause the rapid collapse of the Fatah government in the West Bank. Speaking anonymously to the BBC, the intelligence official cautioned that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “is tired and fed up”, and that if he “continued to be humiliated” by Israel’s refusal to halt illegal settlement construction he might “step down and return home”. This would terminate the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Fatah, mediated by Washington, and could bring down the Fatah government in the West Bank, in a chaotic process that would ultimately “be a major setback for Israel”, said the official. Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and elsewhere, lack international recognition, and in recent years Israel has been pressured by its allies, including the United States, to stop residential expansion into the Palestinian Territories. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #378


Bookmark and Share


News you may have missed #365 (Gaza flotilla edition II)

  • Palestinian Authority to send delegation to Gaza. The Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority will send a delegation to Gaza “in the next few days” to try to reconcile with Hamas, in the aftermath of Israel’s assault on a flotilla of ships trying to break the Gaza blockade.
  • Egypt lifts its side of Gaza blockade for aid. The Egyptian government is temporarily lifting its blockade of the Gaza Strip to allow aid into the area, a day after Israel raided an international flotilla carrying supplies to the Palestinian territory and killed nine activists. The key word is “temporarily”.
  • Palestinian Authority to continue talks with Israel. The Palestinian National Authority leadership in the West Bank refrained Monday from suspending the upcoming proximity talks with Israel, despite the uproar over the Israel Navy raid on the Gaza aid flotilla Monday, in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed.

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #340

  • West Bank urged to drop Israeli cell phone companies. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is urging Palestinians to stop using the Israeli cellular companies Pelephone, Orange, Cellcom and Mirs. The official reasons are economic (Israeli companies don’t pay taxes to the PA), but the real reasons are probably related to communications security.
  • US police wiretaps up 26 percent in one year. The number of wiretaps authorized by US state and federal judges in criminal investigations jumped 26 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to a report released Friday by the Administrative Office of the US Courts.
  • Taliban group executes high-profile ex-ISI spy. Khalid Khawaja, one of two Pakistani former Inter-Services Intelligence directorate officers captured by a Taliban splinter group, named Asian Tigers, has been found dead. The other ex-ISI official, Sultan Amir Tarar, a.k.a. Colonel Imam, who was Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s former handler, remains in captivity.

Bookmark and Share

Comment: Is Palestinian Fatah Spying for Israel?

Mohammed Dahlan


Gaza-based Palestinian movement Hamas has again accused a senior official of rival Palestinian group Fatah of spying for Israel. Speaking last week from Gaza Damascus, Syria, Hamas official Mohammed Nazal said that Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Dahlan, who has been tipped for the post of Vice President in Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority, is actively gathering information on behalf of Israeli intelligence. Nazal said Hamas received a tip-off about Dahlan from a former security officer in the Palestinian National Authority, who appears to have defected to Hamas. The unnamed informant reportedly met with Hamas defense officials on Friday, and told them that Dahlan had asked him to “collect detailed information” about the March 26 execution of two Palestinians, who were accused by Hamas of working for Israeli intelligence. He also claimed that Dahlan showed him a lengthy list of known Hamas operatives and asked him to determine the precise location of their residences in the Gaza strip. Read more of this post

Is CIA collaborating with Palestinian spy agencies?

West Bank

West Bank

A British newspaper has alleged that Palestinian security agencies in the West Bank are working with the CIA so closely that CIA officials “consider them as their property”. London-based quality broadsheet The Guardian said that CIA agents routinely advise and supervise the work of the two main security agencies of the Fatah-aligned Palestinian National Authority, namely the General Intelligence service and the Preventive Security Organization. The trouble with this arrangement is that both services have been documented to resort to severe torture of West Bank members of rival Palestinian group Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2006. And the CIA has had more than a little trouble with torture in recent times. So is the CIA guiding overzealous Palestinian National Authority security agents in extracting intelligence by torturing Hamas sympathizers? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0155

  • NSA confirms rumors of new Utah data center. IntelNews readers have known about this since last July. Despite the new center, NSA still cannot process all the information it intercepts. But officials told a press conference on Friday that the Agency “has no choice but to continue enhancing its data processing efforts”.
  • UK intel agents to train West Bank security forces. Britain is sending intelligence officers from MI5 and MI6 to the West Bank, to train the Palestinian Authority’s Mukhabarat intelligence agency. According to The Daily Mail, the move is aimed to “stop a wave of brutal torture by Palestinian security forces”. How ironic is it, then, that both MI5 and MI6 are currently under investigation by British police for complicity to torture?

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0108

  • Fatah dismisses spy chief in West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed Palestinian General Intelligence Chief Mohammad Abu Assam. The dismissal appears to be part of a broader plan to unify the Palestinian Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence Service, who have been fighting a notorious turf war for several years.
  • Indian Intelligence Bureau wants to block all VOIP Services. India’s Intelligence Bureau has instructed the country’s communications ministry to block all VOIP (internet-based) calls in the country until it figures out a mechanism to track them. It has also said it wants access to the content of all mobile phone calls in the country. Indian security agencies have been struggling with this issue since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after it emerged that the attackers used VOIP software to communicate with the their handlers.
  • Is Afghan President’s brother a US informant? There is speculation that Ahmed Wali Karzai, notorious drug lord and younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is in fact an informant for US intelligence agencies. It true, this would explain why he has been allowed by US agencies to operate freely in the country.

Bookmark and Share

Israeli secret agents guarding Palestinian President, Prime Minister

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Israeli agents of Shin Bet are guarding Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on their trips around some parts of the West Bank, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz revealed last week. The report comes days after jeeps with agents from the VIP security unit of Israel’s secret service were observed escorting Abbas during his visits to Palestinian villages located in so-called “Area C”, a region of the West Bank that continues to remain under Israeli control, in accordance with the 1993 Oslo Accords. Both Palestinian and Israeli officials have confirmed this peculiar arrangement, which is bound to add to the animosity between the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government said that the same procedures are in effect when foreign officials visit Area C, and that it guards the Palestinian Authority President whenever he visits Israel.

%d bloggers like this: