Over the decades it has earned a reputation for ruthlessness and daring undercover missions that have included assassinations and kidnappings, but in recent months, Mossad’s primary duty seems to have become protecting Israel from the Coronavirus pandemic.
As early as late March, Israeli newspapers were confirming the intelligence agency’s role in handling Israel’s response to the disease, with reports that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen set up a special command centre that works in liaison with the Israeli Health Ministry.
Mossad’s efforts at procurement had succeeded in securing 10 million masks by the end of March, a few dozen ventilator kits, tens of thousands of test kits, as well as surgical masks, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The paper cites an earlier Al Jazeera report that the kits were obtained from Gulf states with which Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations.
At the time of publication, there have been more than 12,000 Covid-19 cases in Israel, which have resulted in 123 confirmed deaths.
A New York Times report on Mossad’s role in obtaining products to counter the pandemic noted, without specifying, how the agency has used its skills at espionage to give it an advantage over other countries looking to secure their own supplies.
The agency’s efforts were easier when dealing with dictatorial regimes, where it had more sway, than in democratic states, according to the report.
In Germany, Mossad faced difficulty as authorities in Berlin impounded goods destined for Israel, while in India, a shipment of sanitisers was abandoned after customs authorities decided to look into it.
‘A little’ theft
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, a Mossad operative, identified only as H, said that Israelis would face no shortage in dealing with the virus.
"In the world in general there will be a great shortage. People are dying because of a lack of equipment. In Israel people won't go without," H said.
When asked about the means Mossad intelligence operatives had used in obtaining protective equipment, the agent refused to give details. When pressed further on whether such means may have included theft of supplies from other countries, H said: "We stole, but only a little.”
Israel is by no means alone in using underhand measures in order to secure equipment needed to counter the coronavirus pandemic.
Ties between European Union countries have been tested and strained as rival states seize supplies meant for other nations.
France has both seized protective face masks destined for neighbouring European states and has been the victim of seizures.
In one notable incident, US officials appropriated a shipment of masks destined for France while the plane carrying them was on the tarmac at an airport in China.