Israel Uncovers Iranian Plot To Lure Ex-IDF Chief, Other Israelis Abroad

Then IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz confers with then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry); Tickets booked by Iranian agents for Israelis to travel abroad. (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet uncovered an Iranian plot to lure Israelis abroad in order to kidnap them or harm them, the spy agency announced on Thursday.

Iranian intelligence agents used false identities to contact Israeli academics, business people and former defense officials and invite them to overseas conferences.

The agents used fake email addresses that were very similar to the email addresses of the real people they were impersonating. After Israelis responded to the initial contact, the agents would ask to continue the conversation on WhatsApp.

One Iranian operative used the name of Swiss researcher Oliver Thränert, head of the Center for Security Studies, to contact Yossi Melman, an Israeli security issues reporter. Melman told Channel 12 News that “Thränert” offered to fly him to Switzerland for a conference.

Another Iranian agent used the identity of British journalist Con Coughlin, defense editor at The Daily Telegraph, and a third agent posed as an assistant to Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev in order to lure Russian-Israelis abroad.

One former defense official who received an email was former IDF Chief of Staff and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who immediately contacted the Shin Bet. A number of other Israelis were also suspicious of the messages and contacted security officials. However, there were also a number of Israelis who were duped by the agents and almost traveled abroad to fictitious conferences.

This is not the first such attempt by Iran to use fake identities to gather intelligence and lure Israelis abroad. “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.

“Security officials call on Israeli citizens to be vigilant and cautious due to the threat posed by various terrorist elements on social media and report any unusual request to the Israel Police.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)