Israel Was Behind Cyberattack on Iranian Port That Halted Shipping Traffic, Washington Post Reports

May 19, 2020
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo by Sebastian Scheiner – Pool/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Israeli operatives were the foreign hackers responsible for the cyberattack on an Iranian port earlier this month, bringing shipping traffic to a halt for several days.

The Washington Post, citing unnamed intelligence and cybersecurity officials, reported late Monday that the May 9 attack was in retaliation for an Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s civilian water system. Israel had said the attack crossed a line since it targeted civilians.

The cyberattack on the Shahid Rajaee port terminal was “substantial” and “highly accurate,” and the damage to the Iranian port was more serious than described in official Iranian accounts that did not come until two days later, a security official with a foreign government monitoring the port activity told the Post.

A U.S. official with access to classified files also said that Israelis were believed to have been behind the attack, according to the report.

The Israeli Embassy did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment and the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment.

Israel’s Channel 12 on Tuesday morning appeared to verify the Post’s account, citing an unnamed Western official as saying that “Israel carried out the attack — Iran crossed a red line and Israel had to respond.”

The attacked port was identified by Channel 12 as the base for exports on behalf of Iran’s Quds Force, which operates a number of regional militias and is allied with terrorist groups targeting Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas.

Amos Yadlin, a retired Israeli general who now serves as executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said in a tweet that Israel’s response “makes it clear that civilian systems should be left out of combat. This is a significant message about Iran’s economic system’s vulnerability to Israeli cyber capabilities.”

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