A dolphin has become the latest animal to be accused of spying for Israel after the Palestinian militant group Hamas reportedly claimed to have captured a marine mammal equipped with underwater recording devices and an arrow-firing weapon off Gaza's coastline.
According to Palestinian media the dolphin was spotted due to its "suspicious movements" while it was on a mission to gather information about a Hamas commando unit. Frogmen from the organization's armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, then moved in to make the "arrest." The detention reportedly occurred several weeks ago, but Hamas has not yet formerly commented on the alleged dolphin-bust.
Israel has been accused of using animals to spy before, though nearly all the allegations have later been proven to be paranoia-driven conspiracy theories.
In 2010 an Egyptian television channel ran a documentary alleging that a string of shark attacks in the country's tourist hotspot Sharm el-Sheikh may have been orchestrated by the Israeli spy service, Mossad, which it accused of planting a "guiding device" on the killer beast. However, experts said that high water temperatures or sheep carcasses dumped in the ocean were a more likely explanation for the shark's deviation into shallow waters.
Birds have also come under suspicion. In 2012, a Sudanese newspaper claimed that a vulture carrying electronic devices tagged in Hebrew infiltrated the town of Kereinek. A griffon vulture — which is nearly extinct in Israel and is the focus of a conservation program — wearing a Tel Aviv University leg-tag was also accused of spying after being caught by a hunter in Saudi Arabia.
In another incident, a kestrel found in Turkey during nesting season was suspected of espionage because it was wearing an Israeli foot-band. The bird was later cleared when an x-ray exam confirmed it was in fact not carrying contraband electronic equipment. A pelican and European bee-eater have also been accused of carrying out intelligence work for Israel, including covert surveillance.
This is not the first time, however, that dolphins have been caught up in human conflict. During the second Gulf war the United States reportedly deployed a troop of mine-seeking dolphins to clear explosives from coastal stretches. Previously, in the 1970s, the creatures were used as marine watchdogs, protecting US ships of the Vietnam coast.
Last year, following Russia's annexation of Crimea, Ukraine demanded the return of a fleet of sea mammals from the Sevastopal aquarium that were allegedly trained to perform military tasks as part of a Soviet-era program that was revived by Kiev in 2012.
Moscow sources countered that the Kremlin planned to increase investment in the marine program for both seals and dolphins, training them to "search for sunken military equipment and detect enemy divers."
Israel's Army Radio, which reported the dolphin's detention, said that while Israel did possess a fleet of Dolphin class submarines, Hamas was specifically referring to the animal and not an underwater vessel. It also noted that the sea mammals are one of the world's most intelligent creatures.
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