The military said Thursday it foiled a network of Hamas supporters using fake social media profiles to extract information from Israel Defense Forces soldiers, including on which units would be sent into the Gaza Strip and when they would be deployed.
The IDF said that the network of profiles, mainly on Instagram, used photos of real women as part of a catfishing sting.
The accounts made contact with troops and “managed a kind of romantic relationship… through correspondence, voice recordings and video calls” in order to gather information for Hamas, the army said.
The network consisted of dozens of fake profiles on social networks, and the number of potential victims was between hundreds and thousands of soldiers, including reservists.
The IDF did not say if the ruses produced any actionable intelligence for Hamas.
The profiles were operated from countries aligned with Iran in the so-called Axis of Resistance against Israel and the West, the military said.
As part of the con, operatives first attempted to gain soldiers’ trust, then shifted the conversation to their activities in the army, asking for photos, videos, and written information to determine their whereabouts and their unit, according to screenshots provided by the military.
The IDF said the faux social media profiles had additional fake profiles posing as relatives and friends, in order to “strengthen their credibility.”
According to the IDF, Israeli authorities are working with social media sites to ban the accounts.
One sent a video in Hebrew saying “no words” in Hebrew, apparently to show disbelief at the current situation, while an operative, “Ahva Haifer,” complimented a soldier’s “hat,” to which he replied: “It’s a beret.”
Given the opening, the operative then asked for the name of the soldier’s base and inquired “When are you entering into Gaza?”
In another case, a profile named “Shira Simon” claimed to an officer in the Givati brigade she was an intelligence officer, then asked why he was on a base in the Golan Heights. The soldier replied he was there for training.
Screenshots released by the army showed one conversation where a soldier was asked to “speak slowly,” followed by a 20-minute call between the two.
An operative pretending to be “Or Olga” asked a soldier if she could see pictures of a vehicle he used in the army, wondering if “it is secret or classified?”
In another, she asked if the soldier “can take pictures of some of the situation, I think that if my mother sees all the soldiers prepared and wanting to fight, maybe it will calm her down.”
War erupted on October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst into Israel in a devastating onslaught and killed over 1,400 people, a majority of them civilians, including babies, children, and the elderly. The gunmen also abducted 247 people. Four have been released by Hamas, and a soldier was rescued by security forces.
Israel launched a long-anticipated ground invasion into Gaza on Friday evening, though it made no announcement of the move and has remained vague about the scale of its offensive, a tactic thought meant to maintain an element of surprise against the Hamas terror group.