My, how the Mossad can sometimes look like the Keystone Cops! Let’s take you back to 2010, when 27 different Mossad agents traveled to Dubai to assassinate a low level Hamas weapons dealer, who traded in Iranian weapons. Mossad made an elementary, fatal mistake by not knowing that Dubai was covered in CCTV cameras, which captured every agent’s moves throughout the city. Though they did murder Mahmoud al Mabouh, it certainly was not worth the international opprobrium the Mossad earned. This included three different Mossad station chiefs expelled from major locations, and many governments angry that passports of real citizens were used in the operation. Though Meir Dagan’s head didn’t roll immediately, he retired a few months later. In a western democracy (which Israel isn’t), he would have been sacked.
Malaysian media reports a similarly botched operation. This one, a kidnapping of two Palestinian computer engineers in Kuala Lumpur. This time, instead of murdering them, the Mossad and Shabak wanted to kidnap them and elicit any intelligence information they could glean about Hamas intelligence capabilities.
The Mossad hired several Malaysians and trained them in the methods they would need in order to complete the job. But either the training was badly done or the agents were incompetent. They made an unbelievable number of blunders even an untrained spy would know not to make.
Yossi Melman tweeted that outsourcing its operations to external agents means the Mossad loses control of things and is completely dependent on the competence and consistency of those operatives. In this case the spy agency seems to have placed its trust in a bunch of bungling Keystone Kops.
First, when they ambushed the two Palestinians in a local car park, the victims fought back and the agents only captured one of them. The other escaped. A Malaysian source said the kidnappers warned him away from defending his colleague. Naturally, he took off to a local hotel, and roused the security guards, who directed him to the nearest police station. He then filed a police report and officers began an investigation. It wasn’t hard to penetrate this conspiracy because the kidnappers had used their cell phones in the course of the kidnapping and the subsequent interrogation, which was conducted in a rented chalet. Also, the two kidnap vehicles used actual license plates and did not wear masks, which made it much easier to identify and track them via CCTV cameras.
In the meantime, the Malaysian kidnappers beat the Palestinian in the vehicle after they nabbed him, until he unlocked his cell phone. Then they threw it away fearing it would enable the authorities to track them. When they arrived at the chalet where the interrogation was to be conducted, they again beat the Palestinian till he was prepared to talk to the Israeli interrogators, who were hooked up by remote link in Israel. These Israelis were not affiliated with the Mossad. Since Shabak deals with Palestinian affairs, these were interrogators from that agency:
For the next 24 hours, the victim was interrogated and beaten by the Malaysian operatives when his answers were not to the Israelis’ satisfaction.
Meanwhile, one of the Malaysian operatives was in direct communication with another Israeli, carrying out his orders.
“The Israelis wanted to know about his experience in computer application development, Hamas’ strength in developing software, members of the Al-Qassam Brigade that he knew and their strengths,” he said.
It was this contact between the Malaysians and Israelis which was also traced. It offered yet more evidence permitting the authorities to track them down. When police arrived at the chalet, they caught the culprits red-handed and arrested them. The Israelis on the video feed were confused by the commotion and kept repeating, “Hello, hello” till the link was disconnected.
The police believe that had they not disrupted the conspiracy, the Palestinian “would have disappeared.”
The local kidnappers were purportedly trained by Mossad to carry out the job. Either the Israeli training failed or the agents were incompetent (or both). This makes one wonder at the agency’s planning and execution of the operation, as in the al Mabouh affair.
The kidnapping follows another daring Mossad operation in which assassins ambushed a Palestinian professor and engineer, purportedly affiliated with a militant group, as he walked to prayers at the local mosque. Motorcycle riders drew up alongside him and pumped a fusillade of bullets which killed him. It seems likely that the Mossad used locals for this operation as well. Perhaps the same ones who kidnapped the Palestinian computer engineers. If so, the Malaysian authorities may learn a great deal about the methods used in both incidents. It will permit them to protect themselves and hinder Israeli attacks in the future.
Melman adds that Shabak claims Prof. Batsh and these kidnapping victims were involved in Hamas weapons engineering. Of course, it offers no proof of such a claim. It beggars belief that a professor of engineering at a distinguished foreign university with a wife and children would be involved in research to improve the engineering function of Hamas drones.
Mossad carried out a similar kidnapping last year. This time they kidnapped an Iranian general in Syria and flew him to an African country (reports claim it was Kenya), interrogating him there about the whereabouts of Israeli pilot, Ron Arad. He was shot down during an air attack in Lebanon, after which he was captured by Lebanese militia. He eventually came into Iranian hands and died under mysterious circumstances sometime in the 1990s. Ever since, Israel has left no stone unturned in its efforts to find out what happened to him after he bailed out of his plane, and to identify his remains and bring them to a resting place in Israel.
Initial reports said the mission was a failure. The Iranian didn’t know anything about Arad and didn’t offer any other useful information. Later, the prime minister and Mossad chief changed their tune, praising the courage and heroism of the personnel who conducted the operation.
There are similarities (and differences) between these two kidnappings. Though we don’t know how the Mossad captured the general in Syria, it seems likely it would have been local Syrians hired for the job. It would be especially dangerous to insert Israeli agents into Syria. And their capture would create a huge incident given that the two countries remain in a state of war. Presumably, either the general was interrogated by agents at the African location, or by Israelis remotely from Israel. It isn’t known whether the interrogators were Shabak or Mossad. Though Mossad doesn’t have interrogators, leading to the likelihood that they were Shabak agents.
In both cases, the kidnappings failed, though for different reasons. Also in both cases, the Israelis didn’t get the information they sought because in one case the victim didn’t know anything, and in the other, their agents were interrupted and captured by local police.
So we can add these failures to the al Mabouh murder as three different operations, all of which failed in different ways.
This article was published by Tikun Olam