Israel’s domestic security service says it has arrested a Belgian citizen of Iranian origin, who it claims has admitted he was sent to Israel to spy for Iran.
The Shin Bet intelligence service said in a statement on Sunday that it arrested Ali Mansouri three weeks ago at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport, carrying photographs of the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
The statement said Mansouri, who entered Israel under the name Alex Mans, was sent by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force to set up business ties in Israel as a front for spying.
The 58-year-old allegedly acknowledged under questioning that he had been promised $1m to “harm Israeli and Western interests”.
The Shin Bet said Mansouri made three visits to Israel since 2012 in the guise of a windows and roofing salesman.
A lawyer for Mansouri could not immediately be contacted.
News of the arrest was released just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for New York, determined to expose what he described as “sweet talk” by Israel’s arch-foe Iran.
Netanyahu has been dismissive in his response to the drive by Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani to mend fences with the international community, which culminated in a historic 15-minute telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama on Friday.
Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power, remains adamant that Iran is bent on developing a nuclear weapons capability, something it regards as a threat to its existence.
Israeli leaders have repeatedly vowed to take military action rather than see Iran develop a bomb and have called on its US ally to take tougher action against Tehran, saying they see no real change of policy under Rouhani.