115. Mossad: an extremely powerful intelligence agency of Israel

Israeli Intelligence: One of the best in the world ‘Rafi Eitan’, ‘Eli Cohen’ are a few names which perhaps are known to the Israeli people. However, it may not be the case with the people in the rest of the world. These are, in fact, the names of those heroes who are ‘legends’ in Israel – these are the names of some of the secret agents of ‘Mossad’, the world-famous intelligence organization. At times, they even risked their lives to successfully conduct seemingly impossible operations to defend their motherland and to hold up the honour of their country.

After Aman and Shin Bet, ‘Mossad’ is another crucial agency among the Israeli Intelligence Community. Mossad is neither a part of the Ministry of Defense nor is answerable to any parliamentary, constitutional or administrative authority. The Mossad chief reports directly to and takes orders from only the Prime Minister of Israel. Nonetheless, it is considered a work of national importance. Mossad abides by the principles of justice, integrity, morality, faith and loyalty, discipline and secrecy. For Mossad, its agents and employees, chosen after passing many arduous tests, are its mainstay – its real strength. Having recognized this, Mossad has always focused on the holistic and multidimensional development of its human assets. Training at Mossad focuses on inculcating team spirit among its agents as they go about doing their tasks. However, the training also entails the development of leadership qualities within the agents which helps them in independent decision-making simultaneously with the use of creativity during unusual or unforeseen circumstances. Also, the training teaches the recruits to consider the ‘difference of opinion’ within the team for the planning to be accurate.

In today’s time, the face of conflict has changed across the globe. Earlier, wars were fought between nations or some groups. However, all the equations have changed since the emergence of terrorism. Terrorism has made conflict to go beyond the international borders and reach the doorsteps of ordinary people. Such circumstances underline the importance of the intelligence agencies, which is on par with the armed forces. After the enemies of Israel took to orchestrating terror acts, the work of Mossad has increased significantly. Many times, Mossad has had to barge into the ‘homes’ of enemies to show them its mettle.

Mossad has a very complex style of working. Mossad is responsible for any work that benefits Israel. Some of such multifaceted tasks include – clandestine foreign intelligence collection. Also, Mossad secretly liaisons with intelligence agencies of those nations, which though side with Israel, but have no formal diplomatic relations with it or are unable to maintain the ties for certain reasons. Moreover, creating impediments to stop or disarm enemy nations from developing or amassing non-conventional weapons too falls under Mossad’s duties. Another work of Mossad includes preempting terror attacks against Israeli establishments inside Israel or in foreign countries. Mossad even cares to iron out the hurdles that stop the Jews in any part of the world from safely returning to Israel. For gathering the information necessary to carry out all these tasks, Mossad widely uses various human (HUMINT) and technical (TECHINT) sources. Besides, Mossad functions to develop cooperation with the intelligence agencies of friendly countries and help them.

Mossad works under utmost secrecy. It is estimated that Mossad employs more than seven thousand people, secret agents and has an annual budget of over US $2 billion.

For us to have at least some kind of understanding about the working of Mossad, let us quickly go through some of the undercover operations which later became famous in history.

Capture of former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann by Mossad Secret Agent Rafi Eitan

During World War II, the German dictator Hitler and his Nazi Party had made the ‘Final Solution’ or killing of the Jews as one of their policies. After the world war ended, Mossad searched for all the Nazi officials at the forefront of planning or executing the policy across the globe. Even those hiding in anonymity were identified, and all were executed. One such example is Adolf Eichmann, who was one of the principal organizers of the Nazi plan. In 1960, Mossad located Eichmann hiding in Argentina. Further, Mossad operatives secretly captured and dragged him to Israel on a passenger airplane. Later, he was tried and executed after confessing his crimes. Importantly, till the trial was announced, no one had any idea about the abduction of Eichmann in a foreign country, the manner in which it was done and that he was already in Israel, in custody. Rafi Eitan, the name mentioned at the start of the article, was the Mossad secret agent in charge of the operation.

Israeli Intelligence, conduct operations, Mossad, secret agent, preempting terror attacks, Tel Aviv, Uganda
Trial of former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann in Israel

Operation Wrath of God

In 1972, during the Munich Olympics, a Palestinian terrorist group ‘Black September’ took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and demanded the release of more than 230 Palestinian militants by Israel. Israel rejected it outright as it had an official policy of ‘no negotiations’ with the terrorists under any circumstances. The operation which the West German police performed to free the hostages failed and resulted in the murder of all the 11 Israeli players. Later, under orders from the then Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, Mossad undertook ‘Operation Wrath of God’. At various places, they tracked down and killed each and every ‘Black September’ member connected with the Munich massacre.

Operation Moses

In the 1980s, Sudan was experiencing a civil war. The conditions for the Jews living there, the Ethiopian Jews, worsened. Subsequently, Mossad conducted a clandestine airlift operation, ‘Operation Moses’, and safely brought back thousands of Jews to Israel.

Operation Entebbe

On 27th June 1976, a group of the ‘PLO’ or the ‘Palestine Liberation Organization’ hijacked an ‘Air France’ airliner travelling from Tel Aviv to Paris. Apart from the other passengers, the aircraft which had 106 Israelis, was diverted to the Entebbe Airport in Uganda, a country in East Africa. All the travellers were held, hostage. In return for the release of the hostages, the hijackers demanded the release of some Palestinian Arab militants imprisoned in Israel.

However, contrary to the official Israeli policy, accepting the demands would have meant surrendering before the terrorists. The entire world had its eyes glued to the Israeli response. Till then, Mossad was already at work gathering intelligence from various sources. As the hijackers refused to budge, exercising the military option was finally selected to end the crisis. The abductors were engaged at negotiations while the preparations began for a military operation. The operation, which included air force personnel and commandos, was led by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu who attained martyrdom during the assault. He is the elder brother of the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Intelligence, conduct operations, Mossad, secret agent, preempting terror attacks, Tel Aviv, Uganda
Lt Col. Yonatan Netanyahu

Four C-130 Hercules aircraft flew with some 100 commandos armed to the teeth and other personnel. They had to travel thousands of kilometres. To avoid radar detection at various places, they flew at the height of around only 100 feet. On landing at Entebbe, the Israeli soldiers took their respective positions. Using the accurate intelligence given by Mossad, the Israeli commandos moved forward with silenced guns eliminating the hijackers and the Ugandan security personnel at the airport who came in their way. Finally, all the hijackers and many Ugandan guards were successfully neutralized. The operation got over in just 53 minutes. Within no time, all the hostages were shifted to the aircraft the Israelis had come in with and airlifted home. The incident turned out to be another feather in the hat for Mossad.

Mossad Secret Agent Eli Cohen

During the period of five years from 1961-65, ‘Eli Cohen’, a brave secret agent of Mossad stayed in Syria posing as a businessman. He developed connections and gained clout in the Syrian political and the military high circles. In fact, Eli Cohen went on to become the Chief Adviser to the Syrian Minister of Defense. He supplied Mossad with very critical intelligence. However, only in the later period of his stay in Syria, did the Syrian counterintelligence became suspicious. Finally, he was held, tried and executed publicly. It is said that using the information he passed on to Mossad, Israel could win the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967.

Israeli Intelligence, conduct operations, Mossad, secret agent, preempting terror attacks, Tel Aviv, Uganda
Eli Cohen (in the middle) with his friends from the Syrian Army at the Golan Heights. The area was strictly prohibited for civilians since it was a restricted military garrison, but Cohen had influential friends

Mossad has accomplished numerous such daring operations till today. As a result, the organization is always dreaded by Israel’s enemies. It has also formed some kind of mysterious aura around it. However, it is absolutely a fact that Mossad is one of the mainstays for the survival of Israel as a nation!  (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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