Israel’s Not-So-Secret Weapon in Coronavirus Battle: The Spies of Mossad

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TEL AVIV, Israel – When it was determined that the Israeli Minister of Health was infected with the Coronavirus earlier this month, all senior officials were in close contact he was quarantined, including one that attracted attention: the director of the Mossad, the famous Israeli spy agency.

Mossad officers, who are mainly associated with covert operations abroad in the name of protecting Israel, are usually not in the public health business.

The Israelis were immediately fascinated.

Why should Mossad director Yossi Cohen, a widely respected figure in the country, have even been in the same room as Health? Minister, Yaakov Litzman?.

Mr. As it turns out, Cohen's powerful agency was deeply involved in Israel's fight against the virus and, according to Israeli medical and security officials, was one of the country's most valuable assets in the acquisition of medical equipment and manufacturing technology abroad.

While countries around the world are vigorously competing for limited supply during the pandemic, they turn to any help available and exercise their muscles without apology.

And after the Mossad determined that Iran was fighting its own corona virus crisis – no longer an immediate security threat, the agency could afford to delve into the health emergency, several people said about their operations To know.

The first predictions for the spread of the virus in Israel were terrible. although so far they have proven to be too pessimistic. With nearly 11,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 103 deaths, Israel is not one of the most affected countries in the world.

"The maximum expansion rate has been behind us for about two weeks and will probably decrease almost completely within two weeks," says an article on Sunday by Prof. Isaac Ben Israel from the university Tel Aviv was released.

In early February, officials from Sheba Medical Center, Israel's largest hospital, found that this required more fans and other equipment. Around this time, Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, the director general of the hospital, met with Mr. Cohen, the Mossad boss, at a private event in which a mutual friend was involved – not uncommon in a small country where high-ranking personalities were common move social circles in the same country.

At this point, Mr. Cohen had already started examining how the Mossad could help the Israeli health system. Professor Kreiss said that he had listed the most urgent equipment needs for Mr. Cohen, who had received further lists from the Ministry of Health, and the Mossad had started activating his international network to find the items he needed.

Command issued in early March. The control center was established to regulate the distribution of medical equipment across the country. Mr. Cohen was at the helm and was headquartered in Sheba. There were representatives from Mossad, the Department of Defense Department of Purchasing, and Top Secret Department 81 of the Military Secret Service, which is involved in the development of advanced spy equipment.

Professor Kreiss, former Brigadier General of the Army and a former General Surgeon of the Military said that the Mossad had been instrumental in ensuring that its facility could receive important medical equipment and expertise from abroad.

"Only in Israel could the Sheba Hospital have had the help of the military Mossad," he said in an interview. "Can you imagine Mount Sinai Hospital becoming the C.I.A. for help? "He added, referring to the New York Medical Center.

Professor Kreiss declined to say exactly how Mossad officials helped the Israeli medical establishment or where the imported equipment came from. According to six current or former Israeli officials who are aware of the Mossad's operations, the agency used international contacts to address bottlenecks that may have overwhelmed the Israeli health system.

The six people who spoke on condition of anonymity because The Mossad's activities are classified, and the agency's contacts are invaluable to enable Israel to purchase ventilators and test equipment that Mr. Litzman's Ministry of Health could not secure, and despite these efforts, test capacity is still lacking in Israel.

This person Non-Israeli media reports would not confirm that some of the items were purchased from neighboring Arab nations without official diplomatic ties to Israel.

However, at least one senior Mossad official admitted in an interview with Ilana Dayan, host of the Israeli television news magazine "Uvda" or "Fact", that the agency had in some cases acquired items that other countries had already ordered .

By the end of the first week of April, people with knowledge of the operations said Mr. Cohen was confident that the Mossad activists had ensured that Israel had enough ventilators to cope with the worst predictions.

When Mr. Litzman, whose initially unconcerned attitude towards the virus has been sharply criticized, symbolizes the deficiencies in the government's response for some Israelis. The Mossad represents the opposite. Speaking of its support to fight the pandemic has strengthened Mossad's image as one of the country's most admired government institutions.

There was no time to lose, Professor Kreiss recalled, praising what he called determination shown by Mossad agents. "Part of their ethos is doing their job at all costs," he said.

This ethos has helped to strengthen Mossad's reputation.

It is best known for the capture of Nazi refugee Adolph Eichmann in 1960, its fatal reaction after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and the theft of secret nuclear records from Iran in 2018 who regard the Israelis as their most dangerous opponent.

The agency also had some high profile failures, including the botched assassination attempt in 1997 on Khaled Meshal, a senior figure in Hamas.

To some extent, the Mossad's intervention in the pandemic is an acute embarrassment for Ministry of Health officials, who normally speak freely to the media, but have refused to comment on any aspect of the role of the spy service.

The fact that the country's health care system had to involve the Mossad was proof that it was not prepared to respond to the t A senior figure in the Israeli health care system who asked for anonymity because he was the directorate criticized by the Ministry.

The first shipment purchased by the Mossad abroad hit a special flight on March 19: 100,000 coronavirus test kits, said an official from the Prime Minister's office.

Subsequent deliveries included additional test kits, 1.5 million surgical masks, tens of thousands of N. -95 masks, protective overalls for first aid crews, safety glasses and a range of medications, according to a senior official who was responsible for the Mossad operation knows.

The Mossad also helped obtain technology from outside Israel, allowing many Israeli laboratories to conduct coronavirus testing. Mossad employees also secured the necessary know-how for the manufacture of ventilators in Israel.

With the technological know-how brought in by the Mossad, production lines are gradually being set up in which 25 million protective masks can be produced every month. According to a senior Israeli official, the Mossad knew there was an urgent need to act as the demand for such devices was likely to increase and the understanding that countries would ultimately refuse to export key medical devices would be.

Mossad's efforts were easier in non-democratic countries where intelligence agencies have more influence over rulers, said the official. The effort was based on prior familiarity and mutual trust between the Mossad and these agencies .

In some cases, the official said, Mr. Cohen personally contacted his colleagues. Such contacts were often sufficient to speed up the purchase of the goods. In other cases, the official said, Mr. Cohen spoke directly to the rulers of certain countries he did not want to identify.

When other countries started looking for the same equipment, competition intensified and the struggle was not always fair wages. While none of the people aware of the Mossad's operations explicitly recognized that the agency may have played dirty, he did not rule it out.

Over the past decade, the Mossad has invested heavily in developing relations with states in the United States, the Middle East and Asia, which are at least officially hostile to Israel.

There have been a number of reports that Mr. Cohen has often met with the rulers and spy bosses of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar. In 2018, Mr. Cohen held an unusual public meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who died in January, and Sultan Qaboos, of Oman, who died in January.

Not all Mossad coronavirus operations were successful.

One of the people who knew about the failures said that Mossad delegates had been maneuvered out at least once in Germany, where government couriers confiscated goods that the Israelis wanted to send home from a factory. Another time, a batch of disinfectant in India was delayed by customs officials and the Mossad gave up delivery.

Nevertheless, the Mossad will almost certainly be remembered because it came to the rescue of the country in an unusual battle against an invisible enemy

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