Israel’s Internal Security Agency (ISA), known by the Hebrew initials Shin Bet, revealed on Monday an Iranian plot to recruit Israeli citizens in order to gather information and harm people in the country.
Iranian operatives used a fake Facebook profile, pretending to be a young Jewish-Canadian woman called ‘Sara Puppi’ to contact Israelis and lure them "to gather information on Israeli figures while gauging their willingness to harm them, using pressure and promising thousands of dollars,” the agency said.
Among those the Iranian operatives purported to harm were LGBT people, business representatives and diplomats from Arab countries operating in Israel, according to the ISA.
The Iranian outreach pattern included an initial contact on the social network. Once a connection had been formed, the operatives continued to chat with the Israeli victims via the WhatsApp messaging app while using “emotional and romantic manipulations.”
One such manipulation tried to encourage Israelis to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine, according to Israeli media reports. Such methods were meant to hurt the Jewish state’s foreign relations, said the Shin Bet.
“The Iranian operative behind the account used a business cover story to give various missions,” the Shin Bet added.
The Iranian ploy was revealed after security agents posed as “friends” of the fake profile and were offered a payment in Bitcoin for their cooperation. The account had more than 2,000 friends before it was blocked on Monday.
Israeli citizens have received intelligence warnings in the past from state agencies to be on high alert on social media. Last April, Israel exposed a similar Iranian strategy to target Israeli citizens by drawing them into romantic or business meetings through fake social media accounts.
In January, the Shin Bet arrested five Israeli citizens, who had reportedly been recruited by an Iranian intelligence agent to carry out spy missions against the Jewish state.
News of the recent plot comes after Israel’s Mossad revealed over the weekend that it had apprehended and interrogated a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who planned a series of assassination operations abroad. His alleged kill-list included an Israeli diplomat at the consulate in Istanbul, an American general in Germany and a French-Jewish journalist.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.