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A joint operation by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), IDF, Israel Police and additional security elements has, in recent months, uncovered a network to recruit people from Israel, Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip for Iranian intelligence.

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.

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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.

Those who have been recruited were asked – inter alia – to collect information on military bases, sensitive security installations, VIPs, police stations, hospitals, etc., in order to prepare targets for terrorist attacks in Israel at the behest of Iran.

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 Judea and Samaria who expressed willingness to cooperate with them.

Beginning in April 2019, an extensive counter-operation was implemented against operatives in Israel and Judea and Samaria, including several Israeli citizens who are suspected of having been in contact with Iranian operatives.

The investigation revealed that the connection with the Syria-based handlers developed to the level of passing information and directions to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, both civilian and military.

However, “The counter-operations have shown that the decisive majority of Israeli citizens refused to cooperate with those who contacted them, due to suspicions that their interlocutors were from a hostile source, and severed the contacts,” the Shin Bet said.

“The security forces will continue to take determined action to thwart all activity by Iran and terrorist elements to act against the security of the state,” the Shin Bet added in its statement.

It should be emphasized that any Israeli who is contacted over the internet by an element that he or she suspects is linked to a hostile body or terrorist organization, should inform the Israel Police and sever contacts with said element.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.