Israeli spy agencies accused Iran on Monday of using fake social media accounts to lure citizens of the Jewish state abroad “to harm or abduct them”.
The Israeli claim came hours after Iran accused its arch-enemy of orchestrating an attack on a key nuclear site and vowed “revenge”.
A statement from Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet said it and international intelligence service Mossad uncovered a “method” by which “Iranian intelligence operatives” used fake Instagram profiles of women “seemingly engaged in business and tourism” to target Israelis.
Operatives would use the profiles to reach out to Israelis with international business contacts and try “to draw them into romantic or commercial meetings” in countries around the world, the statement added.
The Israeli intelligence organisations were “genuinely concerned” the Iranian activities “could lead to attempts to harm or abduct Israelis in those countries”, the Shin Bet said, noting that a similar tactic was used by Iran against regime opponents in Europe.
An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP there was “at least one case of a citizen who left for a foreign country in order to conduct a meeting” after being in touch with a suspicious social media account.
“The person was warned by (Israeli) intelligence and returned (home),” the official said.
Tensions between Iran and Israel have risen over recent weeks, with the foes trading attacks on each other’s commercial vessels, according to reports.
On Monday, Iran said a “small explosion” had hit its Natanz uranium enrichment plant’s electricity distribution centre the day before in what the foreign ministry labelled an Israeli act of “terrorism”.
Israel has voiced opposition to recently renewed EU-backed talks with Iran aimed at rescuing the 2015 international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme, which has been in tatters since the US unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018.
Israel believes Iran was cheating on the deal and working toward a nuclear weapon, while Tehran denies such ambitions.