JERUSALEM, (AP) – A man who Egyptian authorities have arrested and accused of being an Israeli spy is a young American who moved to Israel and has an avid interest in the Middle East, an acquaintance of the man said Monday.
Egypt says Ilan Grappel is a Mossad agent and pictures of him in Israeli military uniform have been published in Egyptian papers. The semiofficial Al-Ahram daily identified him in a headline as a “Mossad officer who tried to sabotage the Egyptian revolution.”
An acquaintance in Israel, Ziki Ud, told Israel Radio on Monday that he doubted the Egyptian allegations.
Grappel had moved to Israel from the U.S., served in the military and was wounded in fighting with Hezbollah in 2006. Grappel has studied Islam and the Middle East and speaks Arabic, Ud said.
The fact that Grappel appears to have been traveling under his real name, and that his connections to Israel would have been easy to find on the Internet, appeared to suggest it was unlikely he was a Mossad agent.
A New York Daily News story from August 4, 2006, for example, reported that Grappel, a Queens native, had been wounded by shrapnel in fighting in south Lebanon. The same article said he studied international relations at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Israel in 2005.
The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, citing security sources, said Grappel had attended protests and “incited the protesters to acts of riots and sabotage.” It said he also tried to “plot discord between the people and the army.” The army has controlled Egypt since the authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak was deposed in a wave of popular protests earlier this year.
Grappel was equipped with “communication devices, laptops, CDs, and flash memory,” the paper reported.
Egypt, like other Arab states, has a long history of blaming internal problems on Israeli saboteurs.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said Egyptian authorities have yet to officially inform Israel about the arrest of an Israeli citizen on espionage charges.