Two Israeli media outlets were hacked early Monday with warnings from an Iranian propaganda video linked to the second anniversary of the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani.
The website of The Jerusalem Post showed a scene from an Iranian missile drill last month in which Tehran destroyed a mock-up of Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona.
In the picture, the rocket appears to be fired from the iconic ring Soleimani wore, with the caption: “We are close to you where you do not think about it,” in English and Hebrew.
The Twitter account of the Maariv newspaper, which has the same owners as the English-language Post, briefly held the same message, but soon took it down. Maariv said its website was also hacked.
“We are aware of the apparent hacking of our website, alongside a direct threat of Israel. We are working to resolve the issue,” the Post tweeted.
The site was back online about two hours after the hack.
We are aware of the apparent hacking of our website, alongside a direct threat of Israel. We are working to resolve the issue & thank readers for your patience and understanding. For now, you can continue reading us on our app: https://t.co/UrEXIpatDPhttps://t.co/veBDuWgucp
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) January 3, 2022
Former US president Donald Trump sent shock waves through the region on January 3, 2020, with the targeted killing of Soleimani, who was commander of the Quds Force, the foreign operation arm of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. The Quds force is designated by the US as a terrorist organization.
Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad ordered by Trump, along with his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, infuriating Iran and its allies.
Israeli newspaper Maariv’s @MaarivOnline twitter account has been hacked by Iranian hackers who posted a picture showing a ring launching a missile and a note that read “we are close to you where you don’t think about it” pic.twitter.com/IGQgmybG72
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) January 2, 2022
Trump said at the time that the drone strike came in response to a wave of attacks on US interests in Iraq, warning he would hold Iran responsible if such assaults continued.
Five days after Soleimani’s killing, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at a US air base in Ain al-Assad housing American troops in Iraq, and another near Erbil in the north. No US troops were killed in those strikes but Washington said dozens suffered traumatic brain injuries from the explosions.
Iran is preparing to launch week-long activities to mark the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing. Authorities said the main event of the commemoration would be held on Monday, without elaborating.
They added that a display of “Iran’s missile capabilities” would be held on January 7.
Iranian officials have pledged repeatedly that Soleimani would be avenged.
Last month Iran fired multiple ballistic missiles at the close of five days of military drills that generals said were a warning to Israel. Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces finished the drill by blowing up a target set up to resemble Israel’s Dimona nuclear complex. Iranian TV broadcast images of missiles striking the target structures and issued a threat to Israel.
❌🚀🇮🇷⚡️🇮🇱Full high quality footage of the Iran TheGreatProphet17 maneuvers against the “Negev Nuclear Research Center thirteen kilometers south-east of the city of Dimona”. #Israel #Iran pic.twitter.com/OffP781Kax
— The RAGE X (@theragex) December 25, 2021
Images from the strike were used in the Jerusalem Post and Maariv hack.
Iranian and Iran-backed groups have been repeatedly accused of trying to hack Israeli sites in recent months, part of a years-long shadow war between Iran and Israel that has taken place on land, in the air and at sea. It entered the cyber realm years ago, most famously in 2010 when the Stuxnet virus — believed to have been engineered by Israel and the US — infected Iran’s nuclear program, causing a series of breakdowns in centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
The threats come amid troubled talks in Vienna to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Iran has accelerated its nuclear advances as negotiations to return to the accord struggle to make headway.
Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal and re-imposed crushing sanctions on Iran in 2018. Tehran has since started openly enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity — a short technical step from the 90% needed to make an atomic bomb.
Israel has long seen Iran’s nuclear program as a threat and seeks a harder line by the US and international community. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
Israel is not a party to the Vienna talks but has threatened force if diplomacy fails, and the US has also said it is preparing “alternatives.” Earlier this month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he notified US officials that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a strike against Iran.