On January 12, the Israeli Security Agency, Shin Bet, announced that it had arrested five Jewish Israelis suspected of assisting an Iranian operative in gathering intelligence and making connections in Israel.
The five suspects, four women and one man, are all Jewish immigrants from Iran or the descendants of Iranian immigrants.
The alleged Iranian operative, who maintained profiles on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, pretended to be a Jewish man named Rambod Namdar.
According to the Shin Bet, some of the suspects told investigators that they were aware that Namdar may have been an Iranian intelligence operative, but continued their communications with him anyway.
In exchange for thousands of dollars, the five suspects took photographs of strategically significant sites in Israel, including the US Consulate in Tel Aviv, attempted to form relationships with politicians and provided information about security arrangements at different sites.
The security agency said that two of the suspects even attempted to convince their sons to join a Military Intelligence unit of the Israeli Defense Forces at the direction of the Iranian operative.
“With their grave actions, those involved put themselves, their families and innocent Israeli citizens at risk, as their information was transferred to Iranian intelligence, in addition to the information that was handed over about Israeli sites and American sites in Israel, which would be used for terrorist purposes,” a senior Shin Bet official said in a statement.
None of the suspects had access to significant classified material. However, the case reveals some serious flaws in Israel’s security.
Last November, an Israeli man who worked as a house cleaner for Defense Minister Benny Gantz was arrested for offering to spy on the minister on behalf of Iran. The man contacted representatives of the Iranian Black Shadow group.