Country Listing

Israel Table of Contents



Mossad, with a staff of 1,500 to 2,000 personnel, had responsibility for human intelligence collection, covert action, and counterterrorism. Its focus was on Arab nations and organizations throughout the world. Mossad also was responsible for the clandestine movement of Jewish refugees out of Syria, Iran, and Ethiopia. Mossad agents were active in the communist countries, in the West, and at the UN. Mossad had eight departments, the largest of which, the Collections Department, had responsibility for espionage operations, with offices abroad under both diplomatic and unofficial cover. The Political Action and Liaison Department conducted political activities and relations with friendly foreign intelligence services and with nations with which Israel did not have normal diplomatic relations. In larger stations, such as Paris, Mossad customarily had under embassy cover two regional controllers: one to serve the Collections Department and the other the Political Action and Liaison Department. A Special Operations Division, believed to be subordinate to the latter department, conducted highly sensitive sabotage, paramilitary, and psychological warfare projects.

Israel's most celebrated spy, Eli Cohen, was recruited by Mossad during the 1960s to infiltrate the top echelons of the Syrian government. Cohen radioed information to Israel for two years before he was discovered and publicly hanged in Damascus Square. Another Mossad agent, Wolfgang Lotz, established himself in Cairo, became acquainted with high-ranking Egyptian military and police officers, and obtained information on missile sites and on German scientists working on the Egyptian rocket program. In 1962 and 1963, in a successful effort to intimidate the Germans, several key scientists in that program were targets of assassination attempts. Mossad also succeeded in seizing eight missile boats under construction for Israel in France, but which had been embargoed by French president Charles de Gaulle in December 1968. In 1960, Mossad carried out one of its most celebrated operations, the kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann from Argentina. Another kidnapping, in 1986, brought to Israel for prosecution the nuclear technician, Mordechai Vanunu, who had revealed details of the Israeli nuclear weapons program to a London newspaper. During the 1970s, Mossad assassinated several Arabs connected with the Black September terrorist group. Mossad inflicted a severe blow on the PLO in April 1988, when an assassination team invaded a well-guarded residence in Tunis to murder Arafat's deputy, Abu Jihad, considered to be the principal PLO planner of military and terrorist operations against Israel.

Data as of December 1988