Türkiye’s MIT rescued a Gazan hacker behind the disruption to Israel’s Iron Dome defense system from the agents of Mossad seeking to abduct him according to the details of an operation by the intelligence agency
Türkiye’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) saved Omar A. from possible death or abduction in an international operation and offered him protection as the renowned Palestinian hacker was targeted by Mossad in Türkiye and Malaysia. The young man credited with hacking into Israel’s notorious Iron Dome air defense system was sought by Israel for a long time.
After three years of research, Israeli intelligence traced disruptions to Omar A. that affected the Iron Dome in 2015 and 2016 that helped the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the resistance group Hamas, launch rocket attacks toward Israel. Omar, a computer programming graduate of the Islamic University of Gaza, was the architect of a hacking software for Gaza’s Interior Ministry that can infiltrate cellphones operating on Android. This put him on the list of Mossad as a potential target. Seeking to lure him, they offered him a job through a Norwegian software company in 2019 but Omar, suspicious of Israel’s involvement, rejected the offer.
The young man moved to Istanbul in 2020, but Mossad was after him in Türkiye as well. MIT was also aware of his residence in Türkiye due to his background as a hacker. In April 2021, an agent named Raed Ghazal contacted him, claiming to be the human rights manager of the French company Think Hire, again, offering a job to Omar. Ghazal “interviewed” Omar twice in Istanbul, trying to convince him to join the company. After Ghazal, Omar Shalabi, another Mossad operative, contacted him on behalf of the French “company.” He offered Omar $10,000 for coding software for them.
Omar did the job and was paid by the French company. In June 2022, another Mossad operative using the name Nikola Radonij contacted Omar, offering him a job either in Brazil or in Istanbul. He was accompanied by three other people working for Israeli intelligence and posing as a team of “developers.”
They tried to convince Omar to join the team for an online project. Radonij tried to persuade him to travel abroad for a project as Mossad was intent on taking Omar to Tel Aviv for interrogation. Omar was about to accept the offer but MIT contacted him and warned him against the scheme.
But Mossad operatives did not give up. Omar A. decided to take a vacation in Malaysia in September 2022. The Istanbul branch of MIT’s counter-intelligence department intervened again and installed tracking software on his cellphone after warning him against a possible abduction while abroad. Indeed, Omar A. was kidnapped days later in Kuala Lumpur and was taken to a remote cabin some 50 kilometers (31.06 miles) from the Malaysian capital. There, he was interrogated and tortured by suspects working for Mossad. Mossad operatives in Tel Aviv joined the interrogation via video call.
He was questioned on the methods he employed to infiltrate Iron Dome and Android-based hacking software he developed. When MIT became aware of the abduction, Turkish officials contacted Malaysian authorities and through tracking software, helped them to pinpoint the location where Omar A. was held. Malaysian security forces raided the house and rescued Omar A. Eleven suspects were arrested in connection with his abduction.
Omar A. returned to Türkiye and was taken to a safe house provided by MIT. The organization also coordinated the capture of Foad Osama Hijazi with counterterrorism police in Istanbul. Hijazi was one of the Mossad operatives who worked with Nikola Radonij.
In 2018, Fadi al-Batsh, a research engineer thought to be linked to Hamas, was gunned down near his home in the Malaysian capital by two gunmen who fled the scene.
While his family has accused the Israeli spy agency Mossad of carrying out the assassination, then-Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman denied Israel's involvement.
Israel is widely believed to have killed several Palestinian activists in the past, many of them overseas.
In 1997, in Jordan, Mossad agents tried and failed to kill then-Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal by spraying poison into his ear.
Mossad is also believed to have been behind the assassination in 2010 of top Hamas commander Mahmud al-Mabhuh in a Dubai hotel.
Israel has never confirmed or denied its involvement in Mabhuh's murder.
Mossad plots in Türkiye
The Turkish intelligence earlier uncovered similar Mossad plots to spy on Palestinians in the country. In July, media outlets reported that MIT exposed a “ghost” cell of 56 operatives spying on non-Turkish nationals on behalf of Mossad.
Documents from MIT revealed that the spies were gathering biographical intelligence on foreign nationals through an online routing method, tracking vehicle movements via GPS, hacking into password-protected networks based on Wi-Fi devices and finding private locations. The cell, consisting of citizens from various Middle Eastern countries, used several fake websites in multiple languages, chiefly Arabic, to obtain technical locations and real IP addresses, MIT discovered.
Turkish media also reported in May that MIT busted another cell of 15 Mossad agents based in Istanbul and made six arrests. The agents were also found to be trained in Europe by Mossad executives and tasked with watching a company and 23 individuals with trade ties to Iran and targeted by Israel. Last December, Türkiye exposed another group of seven people spying on Palestinians for Mossad, which used their intelligence to launch online defamation campaigns and threats against Palestinians.
The MIT, in cooperation with Turkish police, has uncovered a string of espionage networks in recent years, including one working for Russia, and thwarted a plot by Iran to assassinate Israeli citizens in Türkiye. Operations have also led to the discovery of a story by Iranian intelligence operatives to kidnap Iranian dissidents who took shelter in Türkiye.