'Israeli spies among New Zealand earthquake casualties'

'Southland Times' says Ofer Mizrahi had 5 passports at time of death; NZ PM refuses to address report; Israeli envoy calls story "science fiction."

By JPOST.COM STAFF
July 20, 2011 06:23
2 minute read.
New Zealand Christchurch earthquake

New Zealand Christchurch earthquake_311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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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, New Zealand newspaper The Southland Times reported Tuesday. Israel's Ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur dismissed the charge as "science fiction."

According to the report, the police national computer has been "under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake," for fears that Israeli agents may have hacked into the network providing backdoor entrance to sensitive information, The Southland Times said.

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Four Israelis who were in the central city of Christchurch when the earthquake hit have been a central focus of the SIS, which suspects 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 found to be carrying five passports.

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.

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According to Tzur, "These were youngsters 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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