Keith Locke
Israeli SAR leader had worked in intelligence

One bit of information that hasn’t come out yet is that Hilik Magnus, who led the private Israeli search and rescue team which arrived in Christchurch shortly after the February 22 quake had previously worked for Israeli intelligence.

It isn’t a state secret – although whether he is currently working for Mossad may be. Mr Magnus says on his website that he has “served in the Israeli Defence Force in an elite paratrooper battalion specialising in special operations. …and served also in the intelligence community.”

Of course, that doesn’t prove that Mossad was involved in sending the team out here, but it is an important piece of information as we try to work out what really happened.

The Press reports that Hilik’s team was not entirely excluded from CBD. It was allowed inside the cordon to a backpackers to retrieve the personal effects of Gabi Ingel and his companion Ofer Levy.

The New Zealand government needs to give us a more details about what it knows about Hilik’s SAR team.

13 thoughts on “Israeli SAR leader had worked in intelligence

  1. This looks like the same Hilik Magnus – do Mossad agents ever “retire”?

    Not long after, Elad’s mother intervenes from Israel to hire a fixer with decades of experience in India. His name is Hilik Magnus, and he’s a retired Mossad agent who runs a search and recovery operation for Israeli travelers. Most of his cases involve drug cases and “flip outs.” It wasn’t hard for Elad’s mother to find him. Problems can be fixed because of Hilik Magnus. Some say he has conducted as many as four secret missions to release Israeli prisoners held in Thailand, even though he looks like a garden gnome in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    In Anjuna, Magnus meets with Nati, Maor, and Elad and tells them the truth: Goa is your jail today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future. But it’s also paradise, so it’s time to start loving it. He shows them around Panaji, 10 miles south, where he suggests they settle, and promises to help them look for an apartment.

    On Magnus’s advice, Elad and Nati decide they want to take a cooking class and a course in English. Nati’s animosity toward India mellows. He buys a T-shirt with a picture of Gandhi, which he wears to Shabbat dinner at Tomer’s house. But Nati worries that even if the judge promises no jail time, anything could happen. Elad starts to wear a kerchief on his head and thinks about his 10-year-old brother, who will be alone at home now that Elad’s other brothers have started their military service.

    Maor, meanwhile, thinks about the future in his own way. Every day his longing for home grows. He chases women and talks about Israel a lot. Maor still infuriates Nati, but he brings out a more “shanti” approach from Elad, who seems concerned. Magnus knows the lawyer well and pressures him to work harder to secure the right judge, which is key to the Israelis getting their passports back. With a little luck, their stay in Goa will be over soon.

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  2. This wasn’t the first time he’s been here, as he came to New Zealand around 2008 to search for Liat Okin who’d wandered (a very long way) off the Routeburn Track, for no explicable reason. Maybe the intelligence connection is noteworthy but keep in mind that Israel has compulsory military service.

    After hearing about this, I do wonder (and not necessarily in a conspiracy-theory way) why the various Israeli SaR teams either don’t or can’t get UN-accredited. Is it something to do with being private firms?

    It’s not just a rubber stamp thing. There are important protocols and standards for how SAR teams from different countries and with different languages cover the search of an area and communicate with each other and ensure they’re not getting in each other’s way or being more dangerous to the overall operation than not, and so on. If the teams don’t communicate clearly and properly in a big operation using established standards, it’s impossible to know which places have been searched and to what extent. If they didn’t hold the qualifications to work with other international teams, it complicates the whole issue and puts SAR coordinators in a position that very unfair to them.

    Israeli teams seem to be sent around the world a lot, and must have struck this kind of problem more than just a few times. It just seems weird to me that they haven’t taken the step of fitting in with the global SAR network, apparently. Given their track record and the places they go and the amounts of money involved, you’d think it’d be a no-brainer.

    I was a bit miffed to read in the Herald that at least one of the parents believed local search teams to be “incompetent”. Maybe it was an emotional-sourced quote.

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  3. Toad, are you talking about events after teh Christchurch earthquake? its hard to understand when you keep referring to the present – it sounds a bit like a fary story, but it probably isn’t. Are the three Israelis that ran from christchurch now in Goa?

    I like this issue of frogblog, we, who (not me) elected this government, have a right to know what exactly is going on.

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  4. @Frida Inta 11:13 AM

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. The part of my comment in quote (most of it) is from an article in Tablet Magazine dated 28 April 2010 – long preceding the Chch earthquake. The reason I quoted it is that it is the first apparent connection I have seen anywhere between Magnus and Mossad.

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  5. And from the look of it, he’s got a bit of a rep for doing stuff outside the normal USAR role – like “rescuing” Israelis imprisoned overseas.

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  6. So even if the Mossad connections are no longer current, I can see why his USAR team can’t get UN accreditation. Organising jail-breaks and securing “the right judge” aren’t exactly traditional USAR activities.

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  7. I’d have thought it was more about understanding the standards and protocols and being qualified to work with other teams when required than an assessment of previous activities. As I write this, though, you’re right that it doesn’t seem so unlikely that his company might not be “trusted”. Probably more likely that he’s never applied given it seems to be of a go-anywhere-do-anything-for-the-parents bent and may be less averse to risks/recklessness than other SAR teams might be. I’d be interested to know how often Magnus works with other SAR teams in a coordinated way. With the Liat Okin search, NZ’s LandSAR had officially stopped searching before he arrived due to the very low likeliness of finding anyone alive. You’d think Israel would have UN-qualified teams, but maybe not, or maybe it’s just that the army always does it.

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  8. Yechiel “Hilik” Magnus was born in 1949, in Sweden. At the age of one, his family moved to the new state of Israel. He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, First Lebanon War and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.

    http://www.magnus-isar.com/Search_Rescue.asp?id=145

    Once a spook always a spook!

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  9. A lot things don,t add up to me. like how did they fly out just 12hrs after the quake when th airport and roads north were closed was it an hercules remember these are just backpackers not agents. How come they left their friend behind without even going to a service. there are to many unanswered question JOHN KEYS body language looked like a little school boy lying.After saying in the morning it was a matter of National security why would he make such a statement . prof Buchanan reckons something is up and the Israeli,is have an embeded handler in this country

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  10. it sounds like his mission in Christchurch was specifically to find these particular people. The only practical way to work in Christchurch after the earthquake would have been to search specific locations, with the intention of rescuing whatever people may turn out to be trapped there, not to search around the city for particular people. In light of this, I can see why the New Zealand USAR people would have considered these rogue Israeli search and rescue people would just get in the way.

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  11. I am quit amazed by the level of suspicion at the Israeli backpackers. Unlike the New Zealand government Israel always send rescue teams to it stranded overseas. It is relatively easy to do a quick research and find that there are tens of rescue missions per year. For example, I found that in March, two young israeli travelers that died in the Bolivian desert in a car crash had triggered the local ambassador into action to retrieve the bodies quickly.
    Maybe these Israelis were there to spy on the drifting send in the high desert…. How knows?
    Israel due to its nature is a close knit society and expect the government and its agencies to go the extra mile to help. Perhaps our government agencies can lear a thing or two about this approach rather then leaving it always to the local British local commissioner.
    However, in our society we expect people to be presumed innocent until proven other wise. To my surprise the people like Keith Locke, who will be the first to defend this principle, completely ignore it when it comes to Israelis.

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  12. GD, I agree that it seems unlikely (though not completely outlandish) to me. Assuming that’s the case I sympathise with these young people who lost a friend and have now become embroiled in this.

    At the same time, I think if Israel did a better job of not getting caught when stealing people’s identities and forging passports from other countries to use in its spy operations (many of which people here find abhorrent), there might have been less suspicion and the NZ SIS probably wouldn’t have even thought it necessary to investigate. Hell, maybe Mossad could just not forge our passports and carry out its operations in New Zealand’s name in the first place.

    If the people of New Zealand are naturally suspicious of Israelis when given an excuse to be so, the people of Israel have their own government to blame at least as much, but from what I’ve seen I’d be surprised if many of them would recognise that.

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