JERUSALEM — Meir Dagan, a former Israeli general and longtime director of the country’s spy agency, died on Thursday. He was 71.

Dagan directed the Mossad from 2002 until 2011. Under his leadership, the Mossad reportedly carried out covert attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists and unleashed cyberattacks, including the Stuxnet virus, developed in cooperation with the United States. That digital weapon reportedly delayed the Iranian nuclear program.

Israel has never publicly confirmed any role in the Stuxnet attacks, but its involvement is widely assumed.

Born in 1945 in Ukraine to Holocaust survivors, Dagan reached the rank of general in the Israeli army and was known for innovations in battling terrorism. In the 1970s, he pioneered what became the “Mistaravim” unit, in which Israeli commandoes go undercover as Palestinians to capture militant suspects.

Dagan was appointed to head the Mossad by the late former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and shared his tendency to disregard protocol to achieve military goals, said Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who is working on a history of the Mossad.

Dagan’s operations against the Iranian nuclear program restored pride in the Mossad after botched overseas operations, Bergman said. Dagan also cultivated ties with intelligence agencies in other Middle Eastern countries who shared Israel’s fear of Iran, he said.

Nevertheless, Dagan’s career also had some embarrassments. Under his leadership, the Mossad was believed to have assassinated Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010. Hotel CCTV footage captured apparent assassins disguised as tennis players. Some countries accused the Mossad of forging passports for the suspected killers to use.

More recently, Dagan became a fierce opponent of a military strike on Iran. He criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Prior to Israel’s elections last March, Dagan headlined a Tel Aviv rally and tearfully implored voters to oppose Netanyahu.

“He was concerned that we, the generation that achieved statehood, are leaving our children and grandchildren a state that is not better than the one we had,” former Mossad chief Danny Yatom told Israel Radio.

Netanyahu still helped Dagan arrange a liver transplant in Belarus in 2012 after he could not undergo the procedure in Israel due to his age.

Israel Radio reported Thursday that Dagan’s corneas would be donated.

Netanyahu remembered Dagan as “a daring fighter and commander.”

“A great soldier has passed away. May his memory be a blessing,” Netanyahu said.

Dagan was known for carrying a photo of his grandfather being humiliated by Nazis before being murdered.Dagan is survived by his wife and three children.


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