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The logo of Israel's domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet
Shin Bet charged four women with spying for Iran in a Jerusalem court this monthImage: Manfred Siebinger/imago images
ConflictsIsrael

Israel charges five with spying for Iran

January 12, 2022

Israel charged four women and one man with spying for Iran. Israel said they were recruited over social media to take photos of facilities in Israel, including US embassies.

https://p.dw.com/p/45Rji

Israel's domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, charged four women and one man accused of spying for Iran with "serious crimes," a statement released Wednesday said.

Israeli media described them as Jewish immigrants from Iran.

An Iranian operative going by "Rambod Nambar" contacted the women via Facebook posing as an Iranian Jew, the security agency said, adding that in some cases, the contact endured for several years on WhatsApp.

The statement said the women were indicted by a Jerusalem court this month.

While some of the women suspected the man was an agent working on behalf of the Iranian government, the Shin Bet said they accepted payment in return for intelligence work.

"I congratulate the Shin Bet and the Israeli police on a successful operation to foil hostile terrorist activity," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.

He warned Israelis to be on the lookout for suspicious content online, adding that Tehran could be behind "information you consume or share on social media."

'A violent confrontation is the last resort'

What were the women asked to do?

One of the women, a 40-year-old from Cholon, was alleged to have made a trip with her husband to photograph the former US Embassy in Tel Aviv. The same woman also photographed a local shopping center and provided details on the security measures in place.

The same woman allegedly tried to pressure her son to do his military service in the intelligence department. The son's Farsi language skills were evaluated over the phone by the Iranian recruiter, the Shin Bet charged.

In another case, a 57-year-old woman from Beit Shemesh did various tasks for a $5,000 (€4,375) payment. She similarly pushed her son to join a secret service unit and sent pictures of his military ID and dog tags to the Iranian agent.

Additionally, the Shin Bet said she also photographed the US Embassy after it was relocated to Jerusalem during the Trump administration.

The Shin Bet said the woman was further instructed to establish a club for the Iranian diaspora in Israel and provide information on its members. The Iranian agent also told her to get close to a legislator, who is not named.

She was instructed to install a secret camera in a "massage room" in her home.

One of the alleged recruits also photographed a polling station. Some were instructed to try and get close to certain politicians.

The Iranian handler was also interested in various security protocols at different locations in Israel, the Shin Bet said.

What has Shin Bet said about the alleged spy ring?

The Shin Bet called the spy ring a "serious affair." It did, however, say the attempt had been largely unsuccessful.

Iran expert Adnan Tabatabai speaks to DW

While a court order banned the release of the women's names, the Shin Bet said, "Iranian intelligence agents make extensive use of the Internet, and there has been a rise recently in these kinds of approaches to Israeli citizens."

Israel sees its largest security threats from Iran and the country'snumerous proxies in the region.

ar/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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