Israeli Security Agency reveals Iranian plot to recruit spies, 5 Jewish Israelis arrested

Communicating through Facebook and WhatsApp, an Iranian agent who identified himself as a Jew living in Iran asked several Israelis for sensitive information. 

By Tobias Siegal, World Israel News

The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) issued on Wednesday an unusual warning to Israelis over increasing attempts by Iran’s intelligence agency to recruit Israelis on the internet or gather information that could be used against the Jewish State.

“Lately, we have identified a spike in attempts made by Iranian intelligence officials to approach Israelis via the internet,” a statement issued by the Israeli agency read.

Such attempts include gathering information that could assist Iran in its campaign against Israel, providing instructions for various missions and even incentivizing Israelis to fly abroad in order to harm them, according to the Shin Bet.

“The Israeli Security Agency will continue to foil Iran’s intelligence operations, while monitoring its activity on the internet,” the statement read.

The agency “called on Israeli citizens to remain alert to any unusual approach or request made online, let alone from entities who identify as Iranian.”

In a recent operation made public on Wednesday, the agency foiled an Iranian attempt to recruit four Jewish Israeli women and one man from the cities of Holon, Beit Shemesh, Kfar Saba and Jerusalem.

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Communicating through Facebook and WhatsApp for several months, their operator identified as a Jew living in Iran and asked them to provide him with information in exchange for financial benefits.

The Israelis were usually asked to provide him with photos of sensitive sites across the country. In one case, he tried to convince one of the women to send her son to military service in Israel’s Intelligence Corps.

Iranian agent Facebook

Facebook account of Iranian agent ”Rambod Namdar.” (Screenshot/Facebook)

The fake Facebook account used by the Iranian operative was opened under the name “Rambod Namdar,” according to the Shin Bet. In November of 2016 the account’s operator shared a post that seems to support the Jewish State. An earlier post from 2014 is a link to an article that seemingly supports an Israeli-Iranian alliance.

Addressing the exposed plot, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that “The State of Israel is in an ongoing campaign with Iran. It is clear: We see never-ending efforts and attempts by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to recruit Israeli citizens. These attempts go beyond security and intelligence; they are expanding to efforts to influence the citizens of Israel and Israeli society, sow discord and polarization, undermine political stability in Israel and damage the public’s trust in the government.”

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The Israeli premier called on Israeli citizens “to be cautious of these attempts. It is possible that behind the information that you consume or share on social media are the Iranians. Have no doubt – the long arm of the security establishment will catch up with anyone who tries to harm Israel’s security.”

In another operation that took place a month ago and was made public on Wednesday, the Shin Bet arrested four Persian-speaking Jewish women from Iran who were recruited by Iran’s Intelligence agency and carried out spying operations in Israel. They are being charged with providing information to an enemy entity and contacting a foreign agent.

Earlier in January, a Jerusalem resident in his 30s was charged with aiding Iran-backed Hezbollah by sending the terror group information over the course of a decade.

And in an incident that shook the country in November last year and led to public criticism of the Shin Bet, a housekeeping employee at Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s private residence was arrested after planning to infect the minister’s computer with spyware and send sensitive information to Iran through Telegram.