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Coronavirus: Israel's spy agency Mossad admits to stealing face masks overseas amid global PPE shortage

More than 100 people have died of Covid-19 in Israel [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 April, 2020

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The Israeli spy agency has been involved in a massive global effort to procure medical equipment and supplies before stocks run out.
Israel's spy agency Mossad has admitted to stealing face masks and other medical supplies in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Mossad official made the damning revelation during an interview with Israeli media.

"The intelligence agency has and will use all means to procure necessary equipment during the pandemic," according to Ilana Dayan, host of Channel 12's "Fact".

Mossad is currently involved in efforts to obtain a range of supplies, inclduing face masks and mechanical ventilators required to keep some Covid-19 patients alive.

When asked whether those efforts have included theft, the head of the intelligence agency's technology division, identified only as H., affirmed: "We stole, but only a little."

Read also: Israeli forces 'steal coronavirus food aid for needy Palestinians, beat aid workers'

"The citizens of Israel will have no shortage," he said according to Haaretz. "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. did not elaborate further on what methods the Mossad has used to procure medical equipment.

A number of countries worldwide have blocked the export of face masks and other medical supplies in order to preserve their own stocks as they come face to face with the highly contagious virus.

Mossad's role in confronting the coronavirus crisis came to light last month when the agency's director, Yossi Cohen, quarantined himself following close contact with Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who had tested positive for Covid-19.
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In early March, the agency set up a command and control centre to handle procurement and distribution of supplies in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and a military intelligence division, the New York Times reported.

Six current or former officials with knowledge of Mossad's counter-coronavirus operations told the NYT it had "used international contacts" to avert possible shortages of equipment and prevent Israel's healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

The intelligence agency had been able to obtain supplies and equipment when Israel's own health ministry could not, the six people said on condition of anonymity.

Arab media had earlier reported that Mossad had been involved in locating and retrieving thousands of coronavirus tests from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations. 

Read also: Gaza factories consider exporting masks to Israel as enclave ramps up homemade coronavirus response

As well as bringing in 1.5 million surgical masks, tens of thousands of N-95 masks and other supplies, Mossad has obtained technology and expertise from abroad that will be used to scale up coronavirus testing and boost local production of ventilators and face masks, one high-ranking official said.

The intelligence agency's efforts were easier in countries with authoritarian rulers, another senior official said. Intelligence agencies in such countries generally have strong ties with leaders, and in turn those agencies sometimes have existing relations with Mossad.

In some cases, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen even spoke directly with ruling politicians, the official added.

Israel has reported more than 11,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 117 deaths.

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