On May 19, the Israeli Shin Bet security agency announced that it had uncovered an Iranian intelligence plot to lure former Israeli security officials and academics abroad.
In a statement, the agency said that Iranian intelligence agents used fictitious email accounts to contact Israeli officials while impersonating real-life academics, journalists, businessmen and philanthropists.
Some of the names used by the Iranian agents were Swiss researcher Oliver Thränert, head of the Center for Security Studies and British Journalist Con Coughlin, defense editor at The Daily Telegraph. In another attempt, an agent presented himself as “Nikolai” the assistant of Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev.
The Iranian agents attempted to gather information on the targeted Israeli officials and academics or invite them to conferences abroad, possibly to abduct or hurt them.
“It is a well-known method of operation of the Iranian intelligence and security bodies, headed by the Intelligence Organization of the Revolutionary Guards, Quds Force, and the Ministry of Intelligence,” the Shin Bet said.
All the Israeli officials and academics who were contacted by the Iranian agents did not respond and immediately alerted security forces.
One of the Israeli officials who were targeted by the Iranian agents was former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who reportedly understood that he was being lured and immediately alerted the Shin Bet.
The plot was likely related to Iran’s attempts to avenge General Qasem Soleimani and nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Soleimani was killed near the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in a US drone strikes on 3 January 2020. Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in the Iranian city of Absard, reportedly by the Israeli intelligence, on November 27 of the same year.
This was not the first time the Iranian intelligence has allegedly attempted to spy and prepare attacks on Israeli targets through the cyber space. Several similar plots were uncovered by Israeli security forces in the last few years.
Early on in May, the Shin Bet security uncovered an attempt by the Iranian intelligence to recruit Israeli citizens via a fake Facebook account.
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