Cyber warfare
Cyber warfareistock

Three Arabs from northern Israel were arrested and indicted for a large scale operation passing on sensitive information to Hamas in Turkey, and attempting to sabotage the Cellcom phone company.

According to the indictment, filed by the Cyber ​​Department of the State Attorney's Office, starting in 2004, the accused worked at the Cellcom company as a software engineer, receiving broad access privileges to the company's computer and information systems.

Out of ideological identification with the terrorist group and its goals, during his 2017 stay in Turkey, R.A. met with local Hamas officials, through the mediation of Ashraf Hassan, an Israeli citizen and Hamas operative residing in Turkey and Lebanon and involved in promoting terrorism against the State of Israel while recruiting local citizens on behalf of Hamas.

Following directions from Hamas, R.A. transferred sensitive information about communication infrastructures in Israel, to which he was exposed as part of his work with the aim of allowing Hamas to access sensitive information from the phone company - especially during times of military conflict with the IDF.

During the years 2021-2022, with Ashraf's mediation, R.A. met Azzam Akre, a senior member of the Hamas military wing, who asked for his assistance in passing on additional information to the group. It should be noted that both Hassan and Akre operate under the command of Saleh Arori, head of the "West Bank Area." During the meetings between the parties, Akre requested access to Cellcom's computer and information systems. After his return to Israel, R.A. met with another operative by the name of S.A., in order to obtain information about the weak points of the systems.

Beginning at around 2015, R.A and S.A. began to discuss the possibility of disabling or disrupting various components of Cellcom's computer and information system out of their common desire to assist the Palestinian Arab struggle.

As part of their relationship, the defendants sought to rely on their skills and abilities in the field of computing and their extensive access to Cellcom's computing and information systems. The two worked to prepare and accumulate technological means which would allow them to penetrate the network, activating software that would disable or severely disrupt the activities of Cellcom's communication network - especially based on the understanding that the company provides data to the IDF and Israel's Security Service.

The defendants' arrest and interrogation by the Israel Police and Shin Bet prevented Hamas from exerting greater damage to Israel's communications system.

At the same time as RA's relationship with senior Hamas officials in Turkey, his brother ZA was also in contact with Ashraf and during their relationship, we met with him at least three times. When on one of the occasions R.A. asked M.A. to convey a message for him, according to which he wishes to have secure communication, which allows him to avoid surveillance and monitoring by the intelligence authorities of the State of Israel.

The indictment includes: Crimes of aiding the enemy, providing information to the enemy with the intention of harming state security (three offenses), contact with a foreign agent (five offenses), destroying evidence, (two offenses) and conspiring to aid the enemy in war.

According to the Shin Bet, "terrorist organizations, including Hamas, are constantly trying to harm the integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli society by exploiting their position to promote terrorist activity while Hamas officials continue, unhindered, with their daily lives abroad." It added that, "The General Security Service will continue working alongside Israeli Police to locate and thwart all terrorist activities aimed at Israeli citizens and [apprehend] those seeking to harm the State.

Cellcom responded to the affair, stating that it: "Strongly condemns the serious incident and worked closely with the security authorities to thwart any potential damage and advance the investigation. After a thorough examination, there is no indication of harm to Cellcom customers and no fear of a personal data leak."

"To clarify - all the security officials determined that there was no flaw in the company's conduct. Cellcom is routinely guided by all security agencies and complies with their strictest conditions and rules, as part of its commitment as a leading Israeli communications company. The employee accused of the serious acts as well as the external consultant were dismissed from Celcom immediately," it added.

Lawyer Namir Adelbi, who represents the main defendant, said that: "Just today a very serious indictment was filed, which attributes a long series of serious security offenses to the defendant. We asked to postpone the hearing in order to photograph the investigation materials in the case and address the allegations."

The defense attorney stated that his client was arrested on September 11, and has been in prison ever since.