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Former Mossad agent pleads innocent in closed courtroom

JERUSALEM, Dec. 17 (JTA) — A retired Mossad intelligence officer charged with passing on false information about Syria to his superiors and keeping some of the money intended for sources has pleaded innocent. The trial of Yehuda Gil, which began Wednesday in the Tel Aviv District Court, was held behind closed doors, and the three-judge panel barred any details of the session from being published. In a terse statement issued after the proceedings, the court said only that the indictment had been read to Gil. It was not immediately clear if he had been charged with espionage. Israeli media reports disclosed last month that for years Gil had been passing on false or modified reports, which he said were based on a source in Damascus. Doubts about the reliability of the information prompted an internal investigation which led to his arrest. Israeli officials denied that Gil’s reports had significantly influenced military and political assessments of the situation in Syria, or that they had led Israel to the brink of war with Syria. The affair was the second recent scandal to rock the Mossad, Israel’s long-vaunted foreign intelligence service. In September, Mossad agents were involved in a botched attempt to assassinate a Hamas political leader in Jordan that brought Israeli- Jordanian ties to a crisis point.