Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service arrested a Belgian citizen of Iranian origin on Sunday, after it claimed he was spying on the country disguised as a window and roofing salesman.
The announcement coincides with a trip by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to the US aimed at casting doubt on Iran’s recent positive interactions with the West, although Shin Bet denied there was a link. Netanyahu will visit the White House on Monday, and address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
According to Shin Bet, 58-year-old businessman Ali Mansouri has admitted to interrogators that he was recruited last year by Quds Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite unit. The security service claims he was sent to Israel to set up business ties as a cover for spying on Israeli and Western targets, and to “harm Israeli and Western interests” for an alleged fee of $1 million.
The Belgian-Iranian man entered Israel on 6 September with a Belgian passport, under the name Alex Mans. He was arrested five days later at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, as he was about to board a European flight. In his possession were photographs that Israel say are of “interest [to] Iranian intelligence.“
The photographs include the cafe next to the US Embassy, a rooftop view of the embassy taken from a nearby building, and the baggage claim hall of the airport. Another shows him posing on the Tel Aviv seaside boardwalk clutching a map.