Israelis were stunned this week-end by the disclosure that young native-born Jews were among the members of a Syrian-directed Arab spy and sabotage ring that took its orders from Damascus. Four Israeli Jews were among 20 persons arrested last week when security forces cracked down on the spy ring that had been under surveillance for the past four months. Most of the rest were Christian Arabs, a fact that had disturbing implications here inasmuch as the Christian-Arab community has steered clear of anti-Israel sabotage in the past.
Three more Arabs were arrested yesterday on suspicion of membership in the ring but several of those previously detained have been released for lack of evidence. Still in custody are Ehud Aviv. 26, a student at Haifa University who was born and raised at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel; Dan Vered, 30, a teacher; David Cooper, 25, a clerk; and Yehezkel Cohen, a Bat Yam laborer. All are Jewish.
FORMER SDS MEMBER SECOND IN COMMAND
The ring was headed by Daoud Osman Turki, a Christian Arab merchant and Israeli Communist Party functionary. Vered was apparently his second in command and it was in the latter’s home that police found code books used to transmit intelligence information to Syria. It was learned that Syrian intelligence transmitted instructions to the network through coded messages broadcast by Damascus radio.
The overall chief of the ring in Damascus was identified as Habib Kawagi, a Maronite Christian Arab who was once an Israeli citizen but left the country after several clashes with the law. Turki ran the spy ring from his book store in downtown Haifa which was a gathering place for Arab and Jewish Mao-ists and other extreme left-wingers.
According to Israeli security sources, some members of the ring were saboteurs and others were intelligence gatherers. The latter operated under instructions from Damascus to obtain information on Israeli political and economic developments and American arms shipments. Israeli forces cracked down on the ring when it became apparent that it planned to launch sabotage activities just before the Christmas holidays. “The ring must be viewed as one of the most dangerous ever uncovered in Israel.” Commander Shoon Eshed of the Northern District Police said last night.
Vered was described as an extreme Marxist who joined the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) when he studied in the United States and who later left Matzpen, an anti-Zionist, pro-Trotskyist splinter group, because he thought it was too conservative. Vered never served in the Israeli Army. But Ehud Aviv served as a paratrooper in the capture of East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.
According to his father, interviewed by Maariv, “Ehud always felt that we paid too high a price for the safeguarding of some old ruins and antiquities.” Ehud’s mother described her son as “a naive boy who does not fit in with today’s world.” Both parents said they would stand by their son no matter what happened. Israeli investigators are certain that Aviv and Vered gave the Syrians important military information after the Syrians played upon their sympathies and convinced them that they could help create a better society by spying and sabotage.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.