Paul Alster
Israel-based print and broadcast journalist
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How to catch an Israeli spy

The Sudanese were quick to detain the fine feathered Mossad agent

If you’ve ever wondered just how hard it is to blow the cover of Israel’s world renowned intelligence operatives then you need look no further than Sudan to receive an object lesson in how to catch an Israeli spy.

Clearly a tit-for-tat measure by the Sudanese for what they claim is Israel’s blowing up of the Yarmouk munitions factory in Khartoum on October 23, the East African nation is claiming a huge coup in having intercepted a vulture – yes, a vulture – who they are certain has been acting as an Israeli special agent.

The unfortunate creature was caught ‘red-clawed’ with a GPS tracking signal about his feathered personage, together with an Israeli Nature and Parks Authority tag around his ankle and the code number PP0277. The Sudanese argue this is very much an open and shut cage – I mean, case – as it is obvious that the bird, who reportedly refused to make any comment to his captors despite being questioned at length, was spying on sensitive Sudanese interests with a view to returning to the Jewish State, from whence he came, before debriefing the heads of Israeli intelligence on his findings.

A vulture is released in Israel's Judean Desert (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov / Flash 90)
A vulture is released in Israel’s Judean Desert (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov / Flash 90)

The bird’s silence appears to be taken by his captors as acknowledgement of his guilt, but one Sudanese source reportedly insisted it is only a matter of time before the vulture spills the beans. (They’re not known for manual dexterity). “We have ways of making him squawk” he assured Sudanese internal security operatives.

Israeli claims that the Griffon vulture (of the type admired by hordes of tourists at sites such as Gamla in the north of Israel where the vulture colony has thrived in recent years), had been tagged with a monitoring device to chart his flight path on his journey south for the winter, have been poo-pooed by Sudan who are confident they have disrupted a major spying network. Even the fact that he had a return Jerusalem address on him and details of the ornithological research project about his plumage, have failed to dampen the fervor of  those who have claimed a massive moral victory over their enemy.

This is not the first time Arab nations have claimed that Israel is using wild animals as spies. The Sharm-el-Sheikh shark incident of 2010 springs readily to mind, whilst another vulture (or could it be the same one in disguise), was arrested and interrogated by Saudi Arabian special forces last year only to eventually be released on the instructions of the Crown Prince, who accepted the presence of the bird indicated nothing more than an overgrown parrot with a bad sense of direction.

Even the Turks reportedly suspected Israel of sending a spy bird to their territory as recently as May when a dead Merops Apiaster, also known as a European Bee Eater, was found with an Israeli tag on its leg. Signs of the bird having taken a cyanide capsule when it realized it couldn’t avoid being apprehended were not confirmed.

As far as our incarcerated feathered friend is concerned, hopes are fairly high that common sense will prevail and he may be released soon. “He’ll think Christmas has come early,” one Sudanese insider suggested.

I hope not for his sake, just in case the Sudanese have also mistaken him for a turkey!

About the Author
Paul Alster is an Israel-based broadcast journalist with a special interest in the Israel/Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to a variety of international news websites including The Jerusalem Report, and was formerly's main Middle East correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster or at