By JONATHAN SPYER
In early April, an Israeli citizen of Arab ethnicity, Ayman Haj Yahye, 50, was indicted at Lod District court, accused of a number of serious security offences. These included, according to the indictment: Contact with a Foreign Agent - An offense under section 114 (a) of the Israeli Penal Code, and delivering information to the enemy with intent to harm state security - an offense under section 111 of the Penal Code. He was also charged with money laundering and an attempt to disrupt a judicial investigation.
According to the indictment, Haj Yahye had met with and begun cooperation with two operatives of Iranian intelligence, (identified as ‘Abu Samah’ and ‘Abu Hussein’ in the indictment,) with the intention of ‘assisting the State of Iran in its efforts to harm the State of Israel through the gathering of information in the intelligence, security, politics, civil, social and media fields, which could help Iran in its war against the State of Israel.’
The individual who recruited Haj Yahye for this purpose is identified by the indictment as Khaled Yamani, a Palestinian resident of the Baddawi refugee camp in Lebanon and a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in that country.
Haj Yahye met and became acquainted with Yamani on Facebook, and then met him in person when the two attended a conference organized by the Palestinian community in Denmark in April, 2018. The two stayed in contact and met again in September, 2018, at which point Yamani raised with Haj Yahye the issue of contact with elements whom Yamani first identified as representatives of the ‘axis of resistance’ and then described as members of the Iranian security and intelligence forces, according to the indictment.
Haj Yahye subsequently received an encryption device from Yamani, for the purpose of establishing contact with the Iranians. In December, 2019, according to the indictment, Haj Yahye contacted Yamani to express his concerns regarding the US peace plan intended to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yamani then raised the possibility of a direct meeting with the Iranian operatives to discuss this and other matters. Haj Yahye, together with Khaled Yamani, met with the two representatives of Iranian intelligence in Budapest on two occasions, in February and then in March, 2020. In these meetings, Haj Yahye is accused of providing the Iranians with information on a variety of matters related to the security of Israel, divisions in Israeli society, and the Israeli military.
Haj Yahye attempted to continue providing information to the Iranians after his return to Israel, and was then arrested by the Israeli authorities on March 16, 2020.
The identity and background of Khaled al-Yamani
The identity and background of Khaled al-Yamani, the PFLP activist who is alleged to have recruited Haj Yihye to Iranian intelligence, is of particular interest. Yamani is a senior and well known member of the PFLP in Lebanon. ‘Comrade’ Khaled Yamini is identified as a PFLP member in this article (which includes his photograph) at the movement’s official website. In the article, Yamani is quoted as praising Leila Khaled as the ‘first woman in history’ to take part in an airplane hijacking, in 1969.
In addition to serving as a member of the PFLP’s refugees and right of return department, Khaled Yamani heads a Palestinian charity based in the Nahr al Bared refugee camp. The charity is called the Palestinian Children and Youth Institution ( مؤسسة الاطفال و الشبيبة الفلسطينية). Khaled Yamani’s Linkedin page identifies him as the Executive Director of this charity, in the period from 1998 to the present.
The PCYI, headed by the openly declared PFLP operative, in turn has a number of links with internationally known charity organizations. PCYI is identified as a ‘local partner’ of the Save the Children – Sweden charity, in its activities in Lebanon. The PCYI is also identified by Abed Khattar of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, as "a partner organization of the World Vision Foundation (see link to Abed Khatar's article)," a US-based Christian charity and relief organization, which has previously been accused of providing financial aid to a PFLP-linked group in Gaza.
In addition to his charitable links and activities, Yamani has been hosted as a guest speaker by a number of left wing organizations in Europe. In 2016, for example, Yamani was the guest of a pro-Palestinian organization in Zaragoza, in Spain. The organization which hosted him, ASSI, describes itself as an ‘internationalist, anti-capitalist and libertarian organization for social and union action’.
Yamani was frequently interviewed over the years. In 2013 Al-Jazeera described him as "Khalid Yamani, a worker with the Palestinian Youth Organisation from his office in the Baddawi refugee camp." In June 2007 as fighting took place in Nahr al-Bared, IPS quoted "Khaled Yamani, an official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Lebanon." IRIN in 2007 described him as "Baddawi camp resident Khaled Yamani, who is a humanitarian coordinator for the Nahr al-Bared Relief Campaign and other NGOs."
The PFLP is listed as a proscribed terrorist organization by both the EU and the US. Founded by Dr. George Habash in 1967, the organization is opposed to the existence of Israel. During the Cold War it received support from the USSR. It was also the beneficiary of financial aid from Neo-Nazi financier Francois Genoud, who was a personal friend of Habash.
The movement has maintained relations with Iran since the 1980s. Iranian financial and military support for the PFLP has increased over the last decade, because of the movement’s firm support for the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war. The meetings in 2012-3 in Beirut and Damascus which resulted in this increase of support were facilitated by the Lebanese Hizballah movement.