Media outlets broadcasting from Kenya are stubbornly and repeatedly reporting on the presence of Israeli “special forces,” who they say have helped in efforts to end the Islamist terror attack on the affluent mall in Nairobi.
Israeli officials appear to have taken an oath of silence and are refusing to respond to these reports.
It is unlikely that Israel would send combat soldiers into a dangerous situation in another country to aid a hostage rescue mission. It is something that has never happened before.
Yet in Israel – with all of its experience in hostage situations, in negotiations with terrorists and in the collection of intelligence for rescue operations – there are plenty of experts in this field. Special units that deal with such issues exist in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), in the police force and in the IDF. It appears that one of these units or specialists with similar experience is aiding Kenya.
Kenya has always been a country of strategic importance to Israel.
It’s no wonder that Israel and Kenya have shared decades of cooperation in matters dealing with security and intelligence.
According to foreign reports, the Mossad has even operated a station in Nairobi at one time or another.
The height of Israeli-Kenyan cooperation occurred during Operation Entebbe in 1976. One of Kenya’s government officials, Scottish- born Bruce McKenzie, was considered a friend to the Mossad.
(Later, the then-head chief of the agency, Meir Amit, organized the planting of a forest in Israel in McKenzie’s name.) McKenzie convinced then- Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta to allow Mossad agents to gather information in the build-up to the hostage rescue operation in Uganda and to allow the Israeli Air Force aircraft to land and refuel at the Nairobi airport following the successful execution of the operation.
In retaliation, Ugandan leader Idi Amin ordered his agents to assassinate McKenzie, who later died when a bomb attached to his plane exploded.
In the last decade, ties between Kenya and Israel have strengthened as they face a common struggle against Islamist terrorism fostered in Somalia and spilling over into neighboring countries.
Kenya has been a victim of terrorism since 1998 when terrorist followers of Osama bin Laden bombed the United States Embassy in Nairobi. A decade ago, al-Qaida militants, operating from the area known as the Horn of Africa, attempted to bring down an Arkia plane taking off from Mombasa with an anti-aircraft missile.
Shortly before that, suicide bombers blew themselves up at the entrance to the Paradise Hotel, which was full of Israeli tourists.
Many Israelis died in the blast alongside Kenyans.
There are plenty more examples of terrorist attempts to hit Israeli targets and representatives in Kenya. The connection of blood between the two countries has only served to strengthen the special ties between them.
This article was translated by Amishai Gottlieb.