It has been released for publication that as part of a joint investigation, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and the Israel Police Lahav 433's Unit of International Crime Investigation (Yahbal) have been looking into a secret Iranian Espionage Network that recruited Israeli women with the aim of performing various tasks .inside the state of Israel
The activities that the suspects were manipulated into by the Iranian Espionage Network, have been under extensive surveillance until it was revealed that relationships had been forged between an Iranian intelligence operative and the Israeli suspects. The investigators have accumulated extensive evidence of these ties, and accordingly, a number of the suspects have been indicted.
The Israeli women were approached on Facebook by a man named "Rambod Namdar", who claimed to be a Jewish man residing in Iran.
At the request of "Rambod," the interactions then continued through WhatsApp. In video chats he had with them, he avoided revealing his face, claiming that his camera was not working.
It should be noted that despite the fact that the women suspected that the man in question was an Iranian intelligence operative, some of them maintained contact with him, agreed to perform various tasks he asked of them and received funds from him.
The prime suspects
One of the women being investigated, a 40-year-old resident of Holon, who suspected that "Rambod" was acting on behalf of the Iranian Intelligence services and was in touch with him for several years. During this time, the suspect performed various assignments for her Iranian operator, including:
covertly photographing the US embassy in Tel Aviv;
photographing inside the offices of the Ministry of Interior in her home town and the offices of the National Insurance Institute;
providing information regarding the security arrangements of the Holon shopping mall and photographing it.
According to the investigation, the suspect's husband was aware of her ties with "Rambod," and even spoke personally with "Rambod," despite suspecting that he was an Iranian intelligence operative. The husband even helped his wife to execute one of her tasks for "Rambod," by driving her to the US embassy in Tel Aviv take photos of the place.
While in this relationship with "Rambod," the suspect was asked to guide her son, who was prior to his enlistment into the IDF, to serve in the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate. She also connected the two, and "Rambod" spoke on the phone with her son to assess how well he could speak Persian (without her son's knowledge).
In addition, the suspect was directed by "Rambod" to gather intelligence about senior officials in the Israeli security establishment.
Another woman in custody who came up in the investigation, a 57-year-old resident of Beit Shemesh, was in touch with "Rambod" for more than four years, during which she performed various assignments for him, and received an accumulated sum of about $5,000 on several occasions.
The assignments that she performed for "Rambod" at his request, included:
Trying to steer her son to serve in the Israeli Intelligence Directorate in the IDF, forwarding her son's military documentation (IDF identity card and dog tags) to her operator, and sending him photographs and video clips from a military ceremony when her son enlisted.
Establishing a club for Iranian expatriates under the auspices of the Merage Foundation, and transferring details of the members active in the branch, photos and video clips from club meetings and photos of the female participants in the activities.
Photographing voting polls during the elections for the 23rd Knesset.
Trying to photograph the US embassy in Jerusalem, an attempt that was thwarted by the security staff on site.
Purchasing electronic devices and installing a hidden camera in a room in "massage room" in her home.
She was directed to become close to a member of Knesset, she was proactive in trying to strengthen the ties with said member of Knesset and transferred information about their relationship to her operator.
She was asked to perform other tasks, such as purchasing a computer and a cell phone, and starting a business.
According to the investigation, a third suspect, a 47-year-old resident of Kfar Saba, transferred money from "Rambod" to the second suspect on two separate occasions. The money was transferred via a relative who came to Israel from Iran for a visit and at a meeting with a messenger sent by "Rambod" in Turkey.
A fourth suspect who is 50 years old from Jerusalem, had a relationship with "Rambod" for about 18 months before she was arrested. Throughout their relationship, he transferred AUD 1,240 to her, received information from her and asked to take part with her in various business and charity initiatives in Israel, which he would finance.
Throughout the past month, the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office has indicted those involved on severe charges.
An ISA senior official: "This is a serious affair in which an Iranian espionage ring operating inside the State of Israel was exposed and taken down.
We are seeing espionage attempts inside Israel by approaching Israeli women , supposedly innocently, and convincing them to maintain ongoing relationships. Despite the suspects' own suspicions that the man was an Iranian intelligence operative they decided to maintain the relationships and perform various assignments for him. These grievous actions put the suspects themselves in danger along with their family members and innocent Israeli citizens, whose details were transferred to Iranian intelligence, as well as information about Israeli and American sites in Israel that could become targets for terrorist attacks.
Iranian intelligence uses the internet extensively, and recently, we are seeing an increase in the number of similar approaches to Israeli citizens. This is done in order to gather information that could help Iran in its fight against Israel; have people carry out various tasks and even draw Israelis to travel abroad with the intention of harming them.
The ISA will continue to foil Iran's intelligence attempts, including by monitoring its online activity.
We call upon Israel's citizens to be on the alert for unusual approaches or requests on the internet, all the more so from those identifying as Iranian citizens.