Israel says it has dismantled Iranian spy ring targeting women

Israel says it has busted an Iranian spy ring that recruited Israeli women through social media

JERUSALEM — Israel said on Wednesday it had dismantled an Iranian spy ring that recruited Israeli women through social media. The women agreed to film sensitive locations, gather intelligence, and in at least two cases encouraged their sons to join Israeli military intelligence.

Israel sees Iran as its greatest threat, and the two countries have been engaged in a shadow war for years. Israel has repeatedly threatened military action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking such weapons and has vowed to respond harshly to any aggression.

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service said a suspected Iranian intelligence agent identified himself as Rambod Namdar on Facebook and claimed to be a Jew living in Israel. His targets appear to be Iranian-Israelis.

A 40-year-old Israeli woman had been in contact with him for several years and agreed to film the US embassy, ​​Israeli government offices and shopping malls in Tel Aviv, the report said. The recruiter asked her to encourage her son to join military intelligence, serve his obligations, and even speak to him on the phone to assess his Persian language skills, it said.

Another 57-year-old woman was in contact with the suspected recruiter for four years and was paid a total of $5,000 for multiple assignments. She also forced her son to join military intelligence and sent his military documents to recruiters.

Shinbet said she set up a club for Iranian-Israelis to gather information about them and tried to connect with a member of the Knesset, but did not name the lawmaker. She was also instructed to install hidden cameras in a “massage room” in her home.

The target of the alleged espionage network has been arrested and faces “serious charges,” Shin Bet said.

“We’ve seen espionage in Israel attempting to approach Israeli women, allegedly innocent, and persuade them to maintain ongoing relationships,” Shin Bet said.

“Although the suspects themselves suspected that the man was an Iranian intelligence agent, they decided to maintain the relationship and perform various tasks for him.”