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Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Israeli spies threaten strike
Swiss policemen spirit the agent into court
The agent was spirited into court through a back door
Agents from Mossad, the Israeli secret service, have threatened to refuse missions in protest at what they see as a lack of backing from their superiors.

Mossad mistakes
February 1999: Two agents arrested in Cyprus near prohibited military areas
March 1999: Retired agent convicted of fabricating intelligence reports suggesting Syria was about to attack
February 1998: Agents caught installing bugging equipment in Berne
September 1997: Failed attempt to assassinate the head of the Hamas in Amman, Jordan
A Mossad operative, known by the alias of Isaac Bental, is currently on trial in Switzerland on charges of spying. He was captured in February 1998 trying to install a telephone bug in an apartment block in the Swiss capital, Berne.

Sources in Mossad told Israeli Radio they were "angry and greatly frustrated" that Mr Bental was handed over by Israel for the trial in Switzerland.

The agents say they expect to receive the full backing of the Mossad leadership, even if the missions they are assigned fail.

Apart from wiretapping, the charges against Mr Bental include entering the country using genuine papers with false names, political espionage and carrying out illegal acts for a foreign state.

Target testifies

The target of the bungled operation, a Swiss citizen of Lebanese origin named Abdallah el-Zein, testified on Tuesday that he and the Islamic centre he managed in Berne had no connection to Hezbollah.

A court drawing of Mossad agent Isaac Bental
A court drawing of Mossad agent Isaac Bental
Mr Zein, who is currently a car salesman, was asked in court whether he could shed any light on anti-Jewish attacks such as the July 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina that killed 86 people.

He denied any knowledge of the attack.

Mr Bental has already pleaded guilty to charges of installing an illegal listening device.

A verdict in the trial is expected on Friday.

Mossad's reputation plummets

The Swiss debacle is the latest in a series of bungled operations in recent years to tarnish the reputation of Mossad, once seen as a ruthless and highly efficient secret service.

Most notably, in 1997 the agency failed in an attempt to assassinate the head of the Hamas movement in Jordan, leading to tension between Jordan and Israel three years after they signed a peace deal.

Danny Yaton, the former Mossad chief, was forced to resign when the failed Swiss operation came to light.

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See also:

27 Feb 98 | Middle East
Israel apologises to Swiss over spying
03 Jul 00 | Europe
Israeli agent admits spying
26 Feb 98 | Despatches
Crisis of confidence for Mossad
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