A number of Israeli citizens were recruited by the Iranian intelligence to carry out missions within the State of Israel and were recently exposed and arrested by the police, the Shin Bet security agency revealed Wednesday.
The Iranians approached the Israelis, mostly females of Persian ancestry, through Facebook, usually by pretending to be an Iranian Jew named “Rambod Namdar.”
At “Rambod’s” request, the connection between him and the suspects continued via WhatsApp. In video chats, he refrained from exposing his face, claiming that his camera was broken.
The Shin Bet emphasized, that despite the women’s suspicion that “Rambod” was an Iranian intelligence official, some of them continued their contact with him, agreed to perform tasks assigned to them, and received funds for their efforts.
The court placed a gag order on disclosing the full identity of the suspects.
One of the suspects is a 40-year-old resident of Holon, who suspected that “Rambod” was acting on behalf of the Iranian intelligence bodies, but had been in contact with him for several years.
She performed various tasks for the Iranian operator, including photographing the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, photography within the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Security in her hometown, and the transmission of information on security arrangements and photography of a mall in Holon.
The investigation revealed that the suspect’s husband was aware of her connections with “Rambod,” and even spoke to “Rambod” himself, although he suspected that he was an Iranian intelligence source. He assisted his wife in carrying out one of her missions by helping her to photograph the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
As part of the connection with “Rambod,” the suspect was asked to direct her son, who was about to be drafted into the IDF, to serve in the IDF Intelligence Division. Through her, “Rambod” spoke by phone with the son and gave his opinion on the level of his knowledge of the Persian language, without the son being aware of the context of things.
It was further revealed that the suspect was instructed by “Rambod” to gather intelligence about senior members of the defense establishment.
A second suspect is a 57-year-old resident of Beit Shemesh, was in contact with “Rambod” for more than four years, during which she performed various tasks at his request and received a total of $5,000.
Acting on “Rambod’s” request, she attempted to direct her son to service in the IDF’s Intelligence Corps, transferred low-grade military documentation of her son to the operator, as well as photos and videos from the military ceremony of her son’s enlistment.
She also acted to establish a club for Iranians in Beit Shemesh, and transferred the details of the Israelis active in the branch, photos and videos from the club’s meetings, and photos of participants.
She also transferred photos of a ballot box during the elections to the 23rd Knesset.
She also attempted to photograph the American embassy in Jerusalem but was unsuccessful after she was exposed by local security guards.
She also purchased electronic means and installed a hidden camera in a massage room in her home.
The suspect also approached a Knesset member, “made active moves to strengthen the relationship with her,” and passed on information about the relationship between them.
Finally, she was asked to perform additional tasks, such as buying a computer and cell phone and opening a business.
The third suspect, a 47-year-old resident of Kfar Saba, came up in the investigation as the one who transferred money from “Rambod” on two different occasions. The funds were received through a relative who came from Iran to visit Israel, and during a meeting with an emissary on behalf of “Rambod” in Turkey.
The fourth suspect, a 50-year-old resident of Jerusalem, was in contact with “Rambod” for about a year and a half until her arrest.
As part of the connection, he transferred Australian $1,240 to her, and in return received various details from her, and asked to participate with her in business ventures and charity projects in Israel, which he would fund.
A senior Shin Bet official stated that “this is a serious affair, in which an attempt to establish an Iranian spy network operating within the State of Israel was exposed and thwarted.”
“In their severe acts, those involved endangered themselves, their family members and innocent Israeli citizens, whose details were passed on to Iranian intelligence, in addition to information passed on about Israeli and American targets in Israel in a way that could be used for terrorist purposes,” he noted
The Shin Bet pointed out that Iranian intelligence sources make extensive use of the Internet, and recently there has been an increase in the number of attempts to contact Israeli citizens “for the purpose of gathering information that may assist Iran in the fight against Israel, passing instructions on the execution of missions, and even luring Israelis abroad in order to harm them.”
The security agency called on the citizens of the State of Israel to “be vigilant in the face of an exceptional request, which they have received in cyberspace, especially from elements who identify as Iranians.”
PM Naftali Bennett released the following statement:
“I congratulate the Israeli Security Agency and the Israel Police on a successful operation that prevented terrorist activity against the State of Israel.
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.
I call upon Israel’s 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.”
“Rambod’s” profile on Facebook is still active.