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Israel says Iran tried to recruit agents via Facebook

"The Iranian operative behind the account used a business cover story to give various missions."

(AFP) — Israel's internal security agency on Monday accused Iran of using a fake Facebook profile to try to get Israelis to collect information and harm people in their country.

Shin Bet's allegation comes days after Israel claimed that the Islamic Republic of Iran had plotted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, as global powers seek to revive a nuclear deal with Tehran.

According to the Shin Bet, the profile of a young Jewish-Canadian woman called Sara Puppi with ties in Israel was fake and belonged to an Iranian agent using the social network to befriend primarily Israelis. 

After contact was made, Puppi would use the WhatsApp messaging app to try and persuade her new friends "to gather information on Israeli figures while gauging their willingness to harm them, using pressure and promising thousands of dollars", the Shin Bet said.

"Emotional and romantic manipulations were also used," the agency added in a statement.

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It said that Shin Bet agents had posed as "friends" of Puppi -- whose account had more than 2,000 friends before disappearing on Monday -- and received a Bitcoin payment from her.

"The Iranian operative behind the account used a business cover story to give various missions," the Shin Bet said.

Puppi expressed a will to harm LGBT people as well as "business representatives and diplomats from Arab countries operating in Israel", it said.

Those behind the account also tried to damage Israel's ties with Russia by encouraging people to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war, the Shin Bet said.

The Shin Bet told AFP they could link the account to Iran with intelligence they obtained.

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Meanwhile, Israel claimed on the weekend it had "foiled" alleged bids by Iran "to assassinate a US general in Germany, a journalist in France and an Israeli diplomat in Turkey".

The plots "were ordered, approved and funded by the senior leadership of the Iranian regime and were intended to be executed by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)", said a statement from the prime minister's office.

A suspect, named Mansour Rasuli, was detained and interrogated by Mossad agents in Iran and allegedly confessed he had been tasked by the Islamic republic to carry out the killings, it said. Rasuli was then freed.

The premier's office refused to provide further details and there was no immediate reaction from Iran.

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© Agence France-Presse

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