New Developments in the Covert Israel-Iran War

As hostilities escalate out of the public eye, the likelihood of a direct Iranian attack on Israel has increased greatly

By Yochanan Visser | | Topics: Iran
Aftermath of an Israeli airstrike. 
Aftermath of an Israeli airstrike.  Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

While negotiations over a possible new or revised nuclear deal with Iran have reached a deadlock, it appears that Israel and Iran are further escalating the covert war between them. There are all sorts of things going on that are largely hidden from the public outside of Israel, but which are constantly occupying the security echelon in the country.

The covert war between Israel and Iran has grown in intensity over the past month.

Israeli warplanes, for example, bombed Iran-related targets in Syria near the border with Iraq late Sunday night.

It was the third Israeli strike on Iranian targets in Syria in just over a week. Previously, the Israeli military used missiles to destroy Iran-related targets near Damascus.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last week warned Israel that a direct attack by Iran on Israel has become increasingly likely.

Nasrallah also claimed that the recent terror attacks on civilians in Israeli cities exposed “the weakness of the Zionist regime.”


Iran on the Temple Mount

Iran was also behind the explosion of violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during Passover, it has now become clear.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was instructed by Ali Akhbar Velayati, a former foreign minister of Iran and now one of the chief advisers to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

During a telephone conversation between PIJ leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and Velayati, Khamenei’s adviser said that PIJ must do everything to “thwart plots against the oppressed Palestinian people.”

Shortly thereafter, on the eve of Passover, violent riots began at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and PIJ launched a total of five rockets at southern Israel.


Hamas bares its teeth

Hamas, meanwhile, has completely lost control over PIJ and now limits itself to verbal attacks on Israel.

Last Saturday night Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar gave a speech that was broadcasted on Quds TV in Gaza.

During that speech, Sinwar warned Israel not to “desecrate” Al-Aqsa again or it would have to deal with a salvo of 1,111 rockets.

The Hamas leader also threatened that his terror group would attack synagogues around the world if Israeli actions against Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount resumed.


War of words

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded to Sinwar’s speech with cynical remarks about the Hamas leader, saying Hamas was out to topple his government and apparently longed for the suitcases full of cash from Qatar.

Bennett’s remark regarding Hamas’s attempts to overthrow the Israeli government had to do with Sinwar’s words about the Arab party Ra’am, which is part of the coalition but has temporally frozen its participation in Bennett’s government over alleged Israeli aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Sinwar called Ra’am a bunch of collaborators and called on the party to permanently leave Bennett’s government.


Cyber attacks

However, the verbal battle between Hamas and the Israeli government is nothing compared to what is happening between Iran and Israel.

Hackers from Iran attack ‘targets’ in Israel almost daily and managed to shut down the websites of Israeli radio stations last week.

The websites featured the word “hacked” and a number of Israeli logos on the home page.

Also featured were images of the Temple Mount riots and a video of a rocket launching while a siren was blaring.


Seeking local collaborators

On Monday, Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, or ISA, furthermore revealed that Iran was trying to recruit Israelis through a fake Facebook account in order to carry out terror attacks on Israeli targets.

The Israelis who responded to the messages from the Iranians were asked to communicate further via WhatsApp where they were instructed to spy on sensitive targets in Israel and were offered thousands of dollars as a reward.


Foiled assassination

Israel, meanwhile, does not stand idly by as Iran tries to hit the Jewish state in different ways.

Last weekend it was announced that the Israeli spy agency Mossad had been carrying out another operation within the borders of the Islamic Republic.

Mossad agents broke into the home of a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran and questioned him about an assassination plot against an Israeli diplomat in Turkey.

The man, Mansour Rasouli, had also been ordered to murder a Jewish journalist in France and an American general in Germany.

The Shin Bet was also reportedly involved in the interrogation of Rasouli in Iran, something that almost never happens. Israel’s domestic intelligence service deals almost exclusively with Palestinian terrorists and Israeli Arabs who plan attacks or engage in other belligerent activities in Israel.

Rasouli was released after the interrogation and said he would never again participate in murderous plots.


American reversal

The revelations about Mossad activities against the IRGC show that Israel rightly put pressure on the US administration of President Joe Biden to keep the organization on the list of terror groups.

The Americans recently seemed to succumb to pressure from Iran to remove the IRGC from its list of terror organizations.

Iran made this demand in Vienna during the protracted talks to repair or revise the 2015 nuclear deal, as the Biden Administration wants.

Israel has consistently pressured Biden not to give in to pressure from Iran and to prepare “Plan B,” in other words, military action in the event that the Vienna talks fail.

Israel has also repeatedly asked the Americans to include Iran’s belligerent and imperialist activities in the Middle East during the negotiations for a renewed nuclear deal.

However, Iran does not want to hear about concessions on this matter and is not even prepared to discuss the problem during the indirect negotiations with the Americans in Vienna.


Ongoing nuclear activity

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has opened an underground production line for manufacturing its next-generation uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz.

Part of this production line came from the now-closed Karaj nuclear facility, which was previously the target of Mossad sabotage.

The latest IAEA report shows that Iran is only using the negotiations in Vienna to buy time.

According to Israeli media reports, Iran has now enriched enough uranium up to 60 percent to build an atomic bomb within a short time span.

The same reports emphasize that further enriching uranium from 60 percent to the 90 percent needed for the production of a nuclear weapon takes just a few weeks.

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