Israel says Iran tried to recruit agents through Facebook

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Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel’s Homeland Security Agency on Monday accused Iran of using a fake Facebook profile in an attempt to trick Israelis into gathering information and harming people in their country.

The Shin Bet allegation comes days after Israel claimed the Islamic Republic of Iran had plotted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, as world powers seek to revive a nuclear deal with Tehran.

According to the Shin Bet, the profile of a young Canadian Jewish woman named Sara Puppi with ties to Israel was fake and belonged to an Iranian operative using the social network to primarily befriend Israelis.

Once contact was established, Puppi would use the messaging app WhatsApp to try to persuade his new friends “to gather information on prominent Israelis while gauging their willingness to harm them, using pressure and promising thousands dollars,” the Shin Bet said.

“Emotional and romantic manipulations were also used,” the agency added in a statement.

He said Shin Bet agents posed as “friends” of Puppi – whose account had more than 2,000 friends before she disappeared on Monday – and received payment in Bitcoin from her.

“The Iranian agent behind the account used commercial cover to give various assignments,” the Shin Bet said.

Puppi expressed his willingness to harm LGBT people as well as “corporate representatives and diplomats from Arab countries operating in Israel”, he said.

The account’s authors also attempted to damage Israel’s ties with Russia by encouraging people to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine, the Shin Bet said.

The Shin Bet told AFP they could link the account to Iran with the intelligence they obtained.

Meanwhile, Israel claimed over the weekend that it had “thwarted” alleged attempts by Iran “to assassinate an American general in Germany, a journalist in France and an Israeli diplomat in Turkey.”

The plots “were ordered, approved and financed by senior Iranian regime leaders and were intended to be carried out by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps),” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

A suspect, named Mansour Rasuli, was arrested and questioned by Mossad agents in Iran and allegedly confessed that he had been tasked by the Islamic republic with carrying out the killings, it added. Rasuli was later released.

The prime minister’s office declined to provide further details and there was no immediate reaction from Iran.

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