The Shin Bet intelligence agency said Wednesday that it busted an Iranian espionage network that aimed to recruit operatives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip "for the benefit of Iranian intelligence."
The Shin Bet cooperated with Israeli police, the army and other security bodies in this regard.
According to a statement issued by the agency, the network was based in Syria under Iranian guidance and was led by a Syrian operative nicknamed ‘Abu Jihad.’ It attempted to recruit people via preliminary contacts based on fictitious Facebook profiles and later messaging apps.
“Using social networks to recruit people is a method known to intelligence elements including those affiliated with terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The affair joins other recent events in which terrorist elements (including those from Hamas and Hezbollah) have established contacts with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians over the internet in order to recruit them for intelligence gathering and terrorist activity,” revealed the statement.
The Shin Bet added that those who have been recruited were asked to collect information on military bases, sensitive security installations, VIPs, police stations and hospitals, in order to prepare targets for terrorist attacks in Israel at the behest of Iran.
The statement went on, “The internet activity was identified and monitored by the Israeli intelligence community at the outset by closely monitoring both the handlers abroad and people in Israel and West Bank who expressed willingness to cooperate with them.
Beginning in April 2019, an extensive operation was launched against operatives in Israel and the West Bank including several Israeli citizens who are suspected of having been in contact with Iranian operatives.
The Shin Bet said that the investigation revealed the connection with the Syria-based handlers developed to the level of passing information and directives to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, both civilian and military.
However, “the operations have shown that the absolute majority of Israeli citizens refused to cooperate with those who contacted them,” the Shin Bet added.