Profile: Israel’s Shin Bet agency

Shin Bet, also known as the General Security Services or Shabak, is Israel’s domestic security agency. It is believed to be at the forefront of undercover operations against Palestinian militants. The agency is said to run a network of Palestinian informers and to have a key role in the Israeli assassination policy against alleged militants.

Agency structure

Shin Bet is believed to have three operational wings:

  • Arab affairs department: Responsible for anti-terrorist operations related to alleged Palestinian and Arab terrorists. This department is believed to have an undercover detachment, popularly known as the Mista’arvim (Marauders) who work to counter the intifada.
  • Non-Arab affairs department: Formerly divided into communist and non-communist sections. Concerned with all other countries, including penetrating foreign intelligence services and diplomatic missions in Israel.
  • Protective security department: Responsible for protecting Israeli Government buildings and embassies, defence industries, scientific installations, industrial plants, and the national airline.

Ami Ayalon. Head of Shin Bet in 1998

Israeli security experts say that Shin Bet has a large number of fluent Arabic speakers, able to pass themselves off as Palestinians and go freely about the West Bank. New recruits to these elite units are said to have to pass a test by going to a Palestinian market and talking to shoppers without raising any suspicions.

Interrogation methods

Shin Bet’s interrogation methods, especially of Palestinians, have always been controversial. ¬†Human rights groups have alleged that many prisoners died at the hands of Shin Bet or were left paralysed after a period of detention.