Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised Wednesday what he called “a successful operation that prevented hostile terrorist activity against the state of Israel”.
Earlier on Wednesday Israel said that it had broken up an Iranian spy ring that recruited Israeli women via social media. Four women and a man were arrested. Israeli media said they are all Jewish immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Iran. It is not clear exactly when the arrests were made, but indications are the suspects have already been interrogated.
The women agreed to photograph sensitive sites, including the United States consulate and embassy, gather intelligence and in at least two cases, to encourage their sons to join Israeli military intelligence.
A relative of one of the suspects traveled from Iran to Israel bringing cash to be handed out to the recruits. An Iranian operative going by the name of Rambod Namdar handled the spies. He maintained profiles on social media sites and pretended to be Jewish.
“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,” Bennett said.
“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.
What could be more worrying for the Israeli authorities is that some of the suspects seem to have known or suspected that Namdar was an Iranian operative, but agreed to cooperate for small sums of money, ranging from $900 to $5,000. Israeli officials and media did not mention any possible motives for mainly middle-aged people to have gotten involved in spying for Iran.
Israel views Iran as its greatest threat, and the two nations have been waging a shadow war for years.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to take military action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Iran denies it is seeking such weapons and has vowed a harsh response to any aggression.
“Have no doubt – the long arm of the security establishment will reach anyone who tries to harm Israel’s security,” said Bennett.
Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service said the targets of the alleged spy network have been arrested and face “severe charges.”