Five Jewish Israelis were arrested in a joint investigation by the Shin Bet security agency and the Israel Police Lahav 433’s Unit of International Crime Investigation and indicted on Wednesday in Jerusalem District Court on charges of spying for Iran. The Shin Bet announced the arrests on Wednesday afternoon, of the four women and one man, who are all Jewish immigrants from Iran or the descendants of Iranian immigrants. The court has imposed a gag order on their names.
The Israeli women were approached on Facebook by a man named “Rambod Namdar,” who claimed to be a Jewish resident of Iran. They continued to communicate with him by Whatsapp, including video chats in which his face was obscured.
The Israelis, who had a relationship with Namdar for several years, suspected that he was an Iranian intelligence operative, but still did what he asked of them and received money from him, according to the Shin Bet. Among the tasks that they performed were photographing the US Embassy, now a consulate in Tel Aviv, photographing the inside of Israeli government offices, providing information on security at a local mall and other sites, photographing polling stations during national elections and providing information about other Iranian immigrants to Israel. He also asked one of the women to encourage her teenage son to improve his Persian and to join a military intelligence unit.
“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,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
“The State of Israel is in an ongoing campaign with Iran. It is clear: We see never-ending efforts and attempts by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to recruit Israeli citizens,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. “These attempts go beyond security and intelligence; they are expanding to efforts to influence the citizens of Israel and Israeli society, sow discord and polarization, undermine political stability in Israel and damage the public’s trust in the government.”