True Spies: The Inside Story of Mossad’s Daring Operation Brothers


Listen to Gad Shimron's Story | Operation Brothers

Gad Shimron has had many names, IDs, and passports as a Mossad operative, but he’s not keen to tell all: “I cannot go into details unless you want to cause a diplomatic uproar or a scandal.”

Let’s just call him Gad. He’s the tall, athletic spy behind a daring Red Sea extraction operation in Sudan, northeast Africa. Mossad’s plan was to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews who’d fled into Sudan to avoid war and bring them to Israel. Sudan was an Arab-dominated country that was very hostile to Jews, however - particularly foreign agents. Gad could be arrested, beaten, or shot.

His commander, Danny Limor, laid out the real dangers but Gad didn’t miss a beat: “It took me between four to five seconds to decide - and I said: ‘Okay, I'll join…’ I like the action. I like the push of the adrenalin.” 

Ex-Mossad Officer Gad Smiron, Operation Brothers
Ex-Mossad officer Gad Shimron went undercover as a diving instructor


Luckily, Gad easily slipped into his ‘legend’ as a Red Sea diving instructor. The dream job gave him a cover story in Sudan and the days passed pleasantly, one sunny afternoon blending into another.

Red Sea Spies: The Inside Story of Mossad’s Daring Operation Brothers

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Listen to Gad Shimron's Story | Operation Brothers

Gad Shimron has had many names, IDs, and passports as a Mossad operative, but he’s not keen to tell all: “I cannot go into details unless you want to cause a diplomatic uproar or a scandal.”

Let’s just call him Gad. He’s the tall, athletic spy behind a daring Red Sea extraction operation in Sudan, northeast Africa. Mossad’s plan was to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews who’d fled into Sudan to avoid war and bring them to Israel. Sudan was an Arab-dominated country that was very hostile to Jews, however - particularly foreign agents. Gad could be arrested, beaten, or shot.

His commander, Danny Limor, laid out the real dangers but Gad didn’t miss a beat: “It took me between four to five seconds to decide - and I said: ‘Okay, I'll join…’ I like the action. I like the push of the adrenalin.” 

Ex-Mossad Officer Gad Smiron, Operation Brothers
Ex-Mossad officer Gad Shimron went undercover as a diving instructor


Luckily, Gad easily slipped into his ‘legend’ as a Red Sea diving instructor. The dream job gave him a cover story in Sudan and the days passed pleasantly, one sunny afternoon blending into another.

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“I would be water skiing in the name of the security of Israel,” Gad told SPYSCAPE’s True Spies podcast. “We would take one of the boats we had and go out to the most beautiful blue seas of the world. And we would just pick up a nice grouper and catch him and bring him for lunch, or a lobster or two.”

Gad’s night job? Not so dreamy. Mossad’s plan was to smuggle out tens of thousands of refugees held in camps secured by armed guards. They’d use the cover of darkness but the risks were high. Gad figured the operation would end in one of two ways: he’d either save lives or lose his own.


The Red Sea Diving Resort

When Mossad scouted the territory around Port Sudan, they found a deserted 1970s resort. It was a divers’ paradise - but one without roads, electricity, or drinking water. A plan was hatched. Mossad would pay the Sudanese government a fee to restore the resort and build a high-end diving operation from the ground up. 


Operation Brothers, Mossad took over a Sudan diving resort on the Red Sea
Arous was a deserted holiday resort on the shores of the Red Sea

There was not one single gasoline station on the way. Not one single normal hotel. Not one single normal garage,” recalled Gad.

Mossad officers know how to improvise, however. Gad turned his fluent German and English to his advantage as a ‘diving instructor’ and prepared for Operation Brothers in 1982. 

That’s the year reality knocked on the door.

Operation Brothers

The diving resort was up and running. Business was booming.

The Red Sea Diving Resort with Chris Evans
 Operation Brothers is dramatized in The Red Sea Diving Resort

On his nights off, Gad told resort staff he was off to party with some Swedish nurses. Instead, his team would travel in a convoy of two trucks and two pick-ups with their lights off. An Israeli ship packed with Navy Seals drifted nearby under a foreign flag.

In the camps, Ethiopian Jewish ‘committees’ organized who would depart each week and sent messages: Friday 8 pm, 160 Jews at the abandoned quarry five kilometers south of the refugee camps. 

Gad arrived in the pitch dark: “It was a desert and all of a sudden there was a whistle and 200 people rose up 10 meters away from you.”


Ex-Mossad Officer Gad Smiron, Operation Brothers
Ex-Mossad officer Gad Shimron


The convoy smuggled the illegals past guards and roadblocks using a time-honored tradition: bribery. Danny, the commander, chatted up the guards and plied them with whiskey and cigarettes. Before long, he’d wave the convoy ahead: "Come on, come on. Go through."

At the sea, Israeli commandos in Zodiac dinghies met the trucks and transferred the refugees to a ship that ferried them to Israel.

Guns blazing

It was smooth sailing until March 1982 when a Sudanese Army unit followed the Mossad officers. With one Zodiac still on the shore, the Army charged, opening fire and shouting: "Hands up."

I saw the flashes from the muzzles of the rifles in the corner of my eye,” Gad said. “I saw this last dinghy boat on the shore with two Navy Seals and 20 brothers on it. I didn't think, I just ran to the boat, together with my friend, and we pushed it into the water.”

All of a sudden I see Danny taking his hands down and shouting at the officer,” Gad added, recalling his commander’s harsh words to the Sudanese military. “‘I'm working for the Sudanese Tourist Organization. They bring tourists to night dives and you almost kill them! Tomorrow I will go to Port Sudan. I will complain to the chief of the Navy. I know him very well. You will end your career as an officer.’”

And the officer said: "Oh, excuse me." He apologized and told his soldiers: "Okay, let's go. They are not smugglers. Wrong target." And they left. 


Ex-Mossad Officer Gad Smiron, Operation Brothers
Gad Shimron shares his behind-the-scenes story in True Spies: Operation Brothers

Mission accomplished

Mossad carried on with the extractions until the mid-1980s, switching from ships to Hercules transport planes that landed in fields with their lights off. About 90,000 Jewish refugees were relocated to Israel in all.

“I think it was one of the only cases in the history of the Mossad where a cover company was actually making money,” Gad said.

Sometimes he meets up with Mossad friends in a café to relive the glory days - but once a secret agent, always a secret agent.

“We take a picture of anybody walking into the restaurants we sit in… I call it ‘partial schizophrenia’ because you are trained to manipulate people and do things that normal people don't do,” he explained.

“The government gives you a license to be a thief, sometimes a murderer, a con man, and once you are off-duty and you're back to your real identity. You have to remember that you are just another normal citizen of the state of Israel."

A normal citizen who’s rescued thousands of refugees.


****


Ex-Mossad officer
Gad Shimron is a SPYEX consultant, journalist, and an expert on intelligence, counterintelligence, political issues, security, and counterterrorism. For further information contact SPYEX.

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