Israel has busted an Iranian intelligence network that tried to recruit spies in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet security service said in a statement Wednesday.
The network was operated from Syria by an operative called “Abu Jihad,” who worked to recruit Israeli intelligence assets through a series of fake profiles on Facebook and other social media sites, the agency said. Afterwards, the contact would be maintained via instant messaging apps.
Abu Jihad, who received orders from Tehran, was tasked with gathering information on Israel Defense Forces bases, police stations, individuals, hospitals and other possible targets for a potential Iranian terror attack.
According to the Shin Bet, the Iranians managed to recruit at least one person to provide information and try to carry out attacks against military and civilian Israeli targets.
The security agency said the vast majority of the attempts to reach out on Facebook were ignored by Israelis because the fake profiles set up by Abu Jihad and his associates appeared suspicious.
It added that recruiting assets via social media is a common practice among terror groups, and that similar tactics have recently been employed by Hamas and Hezbollah.
Earlier this month, an Israeli television report said intelligence agencies had prevented dozens of Islamic State terror group and Iran-sponsored attacks in various countries around the world by providing local authorities with key information.
The Mossad intelligence agency and the Military Intelligence Directorate supplied information that thwarted 50 attacks in 20 countries over the past three years, the Channel 12 report said.
In June, a senior Israeli official told the Kan public broadcaster that the Mossad was responsible for providing British authorities with information that helped foil the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group’s efforts to stockpile explosives in London in 2015.
According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, the Hezbollah plot was part of a wider plan to lay the groundwork for future attacks. It noted foiled Hezbollah operations in Thailand, Cyprus, and New York. All those plots were believed to have targeted Israeli interests around the world.
Agencies contributed to this report.