By Liz Puranam / 3 News staff
The Israeli ambassador to New Zealand has returned to Auckland tonight, amongst claims Israeli spies were in Christchurch at the time of the February quake.
Prime Minister John Key refused to comment on the allegations this morning, but this afternoon, he changed his tune and said an investigation by the SIS had cleared the Israelis.
Israeli ambassador Shemi Tzur arrived in Auckland from Tonga tonight after a day of serious allegations.He refused to answer questions from 3 News.
Mr Key is in the US, and started the day refusing to say why our Security Intelligence Service was investigating whether Israeli tourists caught up in Christchurch's February quake were in fact spies.
"I'm just saying it's not in the national interest to go into those details… I don't comment on matters of national security."
The pictures from you-tube show them in the moments after their van was crushed by a falling pillar in the february quake.
Pictures from YouTube show the first group in the moments after the quake struck, their van crushed by a falling pillar. The driver, Ofer Mizrahi, was killed.
The surviving trio - Michal Fraidman, Guy Jordon and Liron Sade were whisked out of the country within hours, and Mr Key started out the day refusing to say why our spies were on their case.
- NZ concerned about Mossad passport forgery
- How valuable are NZ passports to spies?
- Patrick Gower's 6pm report on the story
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu's office made four calls to Mr Key's office on the day of the earthquake, but the two leaders spoke only once.
Two hastily-formed urban search and rescue teams arrived in Christchurch from Israel, only to be turned away for not being accredited.
There were also fears our police computer system was hacked by a visiting team of Israeli forensic analysts.
All this had made the Government suspicious enough that their could be an Israeli spy ring operating in New Zealand that it launched two investigations. Late today, Mr Key said the police and SIS found Mossad was not involved.
"There is, in the view of those agencies, no link between those individuals and Israeli intelligence agencies. There was no evidence found to suggest there were anything other than backpackers."
Israeli Mossad agents were caught here in 2004, trying to obtain New Zealand passports. It led to a diplomatic freeze, with former Prime Minister Helen Clark calling the incident a sorry indictment on the Jewish state.
Relations had only just began to thaw, with Israel reopening their embassy here in the last year.
The Israeli embassy was on lockdown today, and there was no comment. It only opened last year, relations finally back on track after passport fraud former Prime Minister Helen Clark had called a "sorry indictment on the Jewish state".
It was the quick getaway by the three Israelis and two passports found on the deceased, Ofer Mizrahi, that raised the suspicions of the SIS. Both Labour and the Greens have accused Mr Key of keeping information from the public, but the Prime Minister says there was simply nothing to tell.
source: newshub archive