NZ PM: Israeli killed was not a Mossad spy

Investigation into reports that Ofer Mizrachi was a spy carrying 5 passports deemed false; He had 1 passport, was not a spy.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
July 20, 2011 09:21
2 minute read.
New Zealand Christchurch earthquake

New Zealand Christchurch earthquake_311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Wednesday that there is no reason to believe that Ofer Mizrachi, an Israeli killed in an earthquake in Christchurch in February while backpacking with his friends, had any connection to Israeli intelligence.

Key said that his country investigated the allegations that a group of Israeli backpackers were Mossad agents, and that the investigation has shown that there is in fact no connection between Mizrachi or any of the other people in his group to Israeli intelligence services.

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This comes after New Zealand newspaper The Southland Times reported Tuesday that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) suspected that Israeli spies may have been among the Israeli casualties in the powerful 6.3 earthquake which hit New Zealand earlier this year, killing 181 people including three Israelis. Israel's Ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur dismissed the charge as "science fiction."

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According to the report, four Israelis who were in the central city of Christchurch when the earthquake hit had been a central focus of the SIS, which suspected they may have managed to hack the national information network. One of those four Israelis, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, 24, who was killed instantly when their van was crushed by falling masonry, was accused on Tuesday of carrying five passports. The investigation showed that he in fact had only one.

The three others, one man and two women, managed to escape the vehicle and, after photographing the smashed car, made their way to Latimer Square where The Southland Times said an Israeli officials had set up an "emergency meeting point."

The newspaper called the Israeli government's response to the three deaths following the earthquake - which included the deaths of two backpackers as well - "extraordinary," citing four calls from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to his New Zealand counterpart in the first hour after the quake, and a complete Israeli urban search and rescue squad that was flown to Christchurch.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Ambassador said any claim that the four Israelis were Mossad agents was "science fiction," and that he was "shocked and upset," the SIS would even consider the idea, the Times reported.

According to Tzur, "These were youngsters were holidaying in your beautiful country," adding that Israel encourages tourism to New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Tuesday refused to answer questions about the allegations, saying, "I'm not in a position to comment on those matters, I don't think it's in the national interest to do so." Key made the comments to reporters while on a visit to the United States.


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