The Third Nir Tavor – Nicole le Roux Mossad Thriller, Just Published
With over 100,000 copies of Operation Joktan and By Way of Deception in print, authors Amir Tsarfati and Steve Yohn deliver again with another pulse-pounding novel of international intrigue. Enriched by its being based on true events – as well as Tsarfati’s having been a major in the Israeli Defense Forces – your editors at The Fictional Café loved Out of the Far North and think you will, too.
When the story begins we find Israeli Mossad secret agent Nir Tavor outside Damascus, Syria, bribing a road guard with a carton of Alhamraa cigarettes, and we’re off and running. The very contemporary backstory concerns Russia and Putin, who is furious and plotting revenge on Western energy markets. Europe, once reliant on Russian gas, have turned to Israel for their energy needs. Russia surreptitiously moves to protect its interests by using their newfound ally, Iran, and Iran’s proxy militias. As Israel’s elite fighting forces and the Mossad go undercover, they learn the Kremlin is planning a major attack against Israel.
Mossad agents Nir and his partner Nicole le Roux plunge themselves into the treacherous underworld of oligarchic money, power, and decadence. Will they be able to outwit their enemies, or will their actions have catastrophic consequences? And how can Nir’s special ops Kidon team possibly survive when forces beyond the Mossad’s control step in and turn the whole operation upside down? Here is an excerpt.
Out of the Far North
“Traffic stop fifteen kilometers ahead,” replied Liora Regev, one of CARL’s analysts. CARL was Nir’s team of odd specialists back at Mossad headquarters. The acronym itself stood for absolutely nothing, an inside joke amongst the small group of millennials. “Appears routine. Otherwise, clear.”
Turning toward the driver, Nir said, “Nice work with the guard.”
“He was just a clueless kid. Easily controlled,” Alif chuckled. “I could have had him doing pushups on the street if we had the time.”
Nir laughed, figuring he probably could. Alif was a member of the HUMINT-gathering Unit 504, who were masters of human intelligence collection, interrogation, and PSYOP. When Nir was a kid, he and his friends used to talk about the shadowy unit, but always with hushed voices. Formed soon after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, it is one of three divisions of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate—and, by far, its most secretive. Recently, he read an article in which one of the unit’s officers said that if you want to understand the activities of Unit 504, you should go to a theater and watch a thriller double feature. Only then will you scratch the surface of the work they do.
Reading those words had sent a little twinge through Nir. As he had approached the end of his mandatory military service and begun weighing the options for his future, he had considered applying for Unit 504. He wanted action in his life. He wanted to make a difference. But living a secret life for years at a time in an enemy country had seemed exhausting to him. Many of the undercover agents that 504 had deployed around the world, and particularly in the Middle East, reminded Nir of Cold War moles deeply hidden by their governments on the opposite side of the Iron Curtain. There was the loud war that Israel fought with rockets and fighter jets; then there was the larger quiet war. It was this silent war that Unit 504 fought.
Except for nights like tonight.
When his “What-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life?” moment had come, Nir decided that Unit 504 might end up being a little too much action for his taste. So, he had joined the State Security System in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instead. Calm and easy, with excitement coming in the form of international travel to exotic lands. But action had a way of finding him. His courage and skill in a shootout in South Africa had caught the attention of the Mossad, which quickly recruited him. Not long after, he was brought into the intelligence agency’s Kidon unit. Kidon was the tip of the Mossad’s spear—a finely honed point that always seemed to be dripping blood.
For a guy who was not looking for too much action, he had done a very poor job of avoiding it. In recent years, he had been stabbed, shot, kidnapped, and tortured. And now here he was in Syria, in a stolen truck, wearing a counterfeit officer’s uniform and leading a combined team of five Kidon operatives, four Unit 504 agents, and two analysts. And then there was the secret weapon in the back of the truck—can’t forget about that. Maybe living undercover in a hostile nation under constant threat of death would have been a safer career choice, he thought with a shake of his head.
He had been introduced to the Unit 504 guys after the Israeli Air Force’s Yanshuf helicopter had set them down in the hill country near the village of Talfita, north of Damascus. The flight in had been necessarily low to keep them below radar detection. But low altitude meant a turbulent trip. So, during the introductions, his brain was still bouncing. Thankfully, Unit 504 wasn’t big on names, even with people on their side. The team lead, an Israeli, had introduced himself only as Alif, and with him were three Syrian subordinate agents also with Arabic letters as names. Nir had figured that when in Damascus, he might as well do as the Syrians do, so he had followed suit, assigning the operators on his Kidon team Arabic letters for their operational names.
The flashing blue lights of the traffic stop passed on Nir’s right. The officer was talking to a man in a vehicle and didn’t seem to take notice of them.
“CARL, Lead. We’ve cleared the traffic stop,” said Nir into his coms unit.
“We see you,” Liora answered. “You’re clear to target.”
Operation Boom had begun a little over two weeks ago. Nir had just flown into Tel Aviv, having been summoned by text while he was at Yael Diamonds, his precious gems company located in Brussels, Belgium. When he arrived at Mossad headquarters, he went straight to CARL. His text on the way in made sure the team was already sitting around the conference table waiting for him. Before joining them, Nir walked over to Lahav Tabib’s desk and placed a green ball cap on the head of the analyst’s life-sized Chewbacca mannequin. On the hat was a large shamrock embroidered with the words Kiss Me I’m Irish.
Applause broke out around the table. “Well played,” said Yossi Hirschfield.
“I never knew,” added Dafna Ronen.
“You can hear a little lilt when he does his . . ..” And here, Nir tried to do a Chewbacca roar, which turned out as poorly as did all his attempts at impersonation.
“That was such a balagan! Don’t ever do that again,” chided Liora.
Nir laughed as he sat at the head of the table surrounded by his little band of brilliant analytical misfits. To his left was Liora, a cute, tiny brunette with a gift for sarcasm that punched far above her weight class. To her left was Dafna, tall and thin with more tattoos and piercings than an entire all-girl punk band. On Nir’s right sat Yossi, whose hipster beard and man bun perfectly fit his laid-back surfer vibe. And, finally, next to him was Nir’s problem child—Lahav. Bespectacled and pocket-protected, he was relationally inept, wickedly smart, and ambivalent when it came to the law and authority. Lahav was the perfect guy to have around when you needed him, and like fingernails on a chalkboard when you didn’t.
The only member of the team who was not there was the one Nir wanted to see the most. Nicole le Roux’s face filled Nir’s mind. Ice-blue eyes, dark brows, full lips, all surrounded by curly brown hair that was perfectly made for someone, preferably him, to run their fingers through. He would have loved for her to be in the ops center with them, but instead, she was on assignment for her other job, doing a photo shoot in New York City for some makeup company.
“He’s thinking of her again,” said Dafna. “You can tell by the wistful look in his eyes.”
Liora leaned toward him. “I’m not so sure. How do you tell the difference between wistful and vacant?”
Nir glared at her. In the center of the table sat a bowl filled with little green bags of Klik chocolate-covered corn flakes. He snatched one and pulled it open. “We’re still waiting for Efraim.”
As if on cue, the door opened and in walked Efraim Cohen, assistant deputy director of Caesarea. Caesarea, pronounced with a hard c, was the ops branch of the Mossad and the parent division of Kidon.
“Boker tov Eliyahu,” Nir chided his friend.
Pointing toward Chewbacca’s hat, Efraim laughed and said, “I never knew.”
“Already been said,” Yossi said with an eye roll. “Maybe if you got here on time.”
Efraim laughed as he sat, and said to Nir, “Try controlling your people.”
“Yeah, right,” replied Nir through a mouthful of candy. “Okay, you’ve got us here. What’s up?”
“Sababa. Straight to business. We’ve tracked a shipment of arms from Iran to Damascus,” began Efraim.
“Is that all?” asked Lahav. “Just send some F-16s from Ramat David and blast a new crater. Done and done.” He brushed his hands together as he said the last three words.
“That’s very helpful, Lahav. You know, we hadn’t thought of that,” an excited Efraim replied, pretending to punch a number into his phone.
Lahav beamed, then his smile disappeared. “Wait, you’re mocking me, aren’t you?”
With a glance at Nir and a shake of his head, Efraim continued. “The cargo plane was unloaded rapidly, and the contents were immediately trucked to a new storage location in Harran al-‘Awamid, less than two kilometers from the airport. Because of the speed of the transfer, we couldn’t get a clear look at what Tehran sent to them.”
“Any thoughts?” asked Dafna.
“Might be drones. We’re concerned that Iran might be upping the quality of the UAVs available to the militias in Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since, thanks to you all, our airstrike cratered their nuke program last year, they’ve been pouring money and technology into building the effectiveness of their proxies.”
“I’ve picked up pieces of that chatter,” said Yossi, who was among the Mossad’s best at intercepting and analyzing COMINT, or communications intelligence.
“I know. Your work is one of the reasons we’re concerned.”
The team cheered Yossi, and Liora tossed him a bag of Klik that he caught one-handed and pulled open.
Efraim continued, “There’s also the possibility of it being a better series of missiles than the next-to-worthless Katyusha rockets the dirties are usually sending our way. Be’shu’shu, Russia has been promising to upgrade Iran’s precision missiles ever since the two became bed buddies over Iran’s high-quality drones. Whatever it is in that shipment, it’s created a big stir amongst the bad guys, so it’s also creating a big stir amongst us.”
Nir said, “There has to be a reason we don’t just send a couple Delilah missiles their way. I’m guessing it’s the storage location.”
“Bul. That’s it exactly. Toss me four of those Klik bags.”
“Hospital,” said Efraim, placing one bag on the table. He set a second one next to the first. “Maternity hospital.” Then he placed a third just a short distance away. “Across the street, a newly built orphanage.” Then, setting the fourth one next to the “orphanage” pack, he said, “And guess what that is.”
Dafna let slip a non-synagogue word, and said, “They’re terrible people.”
“Ma pitom! Who uses their own children as human shields?” added Yossi.
“Exactly,” said Efraim. “The location was perfectly chosen to create an international incident. One rocket or missile just a few meters off target from their brand-new weapons storage warehouse and we’ve got the UN passing another resolution against us. Oh, and, by the way, just up the road from the hospitals are two schools,” Efraim said, pointing to the appropriate place on the table. “Wouldn’t be in session when we attacked, but would still make a nice headline.” Efraim let the gravity of the situation sink in, then said, “Now, guess what your job is.”
The discussion went well into the evening. Plan after plan was suggested and developed until a flaw was found that caused it to crash like a house of cards. It was Lahav who finally offered up the winning idea, which led to Nir and his team riding in a stolen Syrian army truck with a squad of Unit 504 guys and very expensive cargo in the back.
Yossi had come up with the name of the operation quite accidentally. As they were working through the details of the plan, a song he had heard the previous day on his classic rock playlist kept rustling around in his mind and out of his mouth. Soon, every time the words “Boom, boom” slipped from between his lips, everyone else around the table called out, “Out go the lights.” Nir refused to present Operation Boom Boom to the shadowy spooks in Unit 504, so the name was shortened to Operation Boom. This was despite no actual “boom” being necessary to complete the mission if everything went according to plan. In fact, Nir was hoping for no explosions at all.
The name is still a bit embarrassing, Nir thought as he glanced sideways at Alif in the driver’s seat. But I suppose you’ve got to keep the kids happy if you want them to play nice.
Excerpted from Out of the Far North. Copyright © 2023 Amir Tsarfati and Steve Yohn.
Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408.
Amir Tsarfati is a native Israeli and former major in the Israeli Defense Forces. He is the founder and president of Behold Israel—a nonprofit ministry that provides Bible teaching through tours, conferences, and social media. It also provides unique access to news and information about Israel from a biblical and prophetic standpoint. Amir is married with four children and resides in northern Israel.
Steve Yohn is a senior writer and editor for Behold Israel. Previously, he served as pastor for a church in Strasburg, Colorado, for ten years. He has coauthored six thriller novels and ghostwritten other works. Steve has one daughter and lives with his wife just outside of Denver.