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LEBANON: An alleged Israeli spy network uncovered

November 3, 2008 |  8:44 am

MossadLebanon’s army announced on Saturday the arrest of two people accused of belonging to a network spying for Israel's Mossad, part of an espionage tale that has captured the imagination of the Lebanese these last few days. 

A statement posted in Arabic on the Lebanese army’s website said:

The Army directorate of intelligence, after a series of investigations in the Bekaa region, detained two people belonging to a network of espionage and terrorism linked to the Israeli enemy. ... They admitted gathering information on political party offices and monitoring the movements of party figures for this enemy. 

No further information was released but media reports mentioned a possible link between the two suspected spies and the assassination of Hezbollah’s military commander, Imad Mughniyah, in a car bomb in...

... Damascus earlier in February.

According to the Lebanese daily Assafir, one of the two detainees was recruited by the Mossad in the 1980s and had been working with it since then.

The newspaper today quoted unnamed Palestinian officials in Lebanon as saying that one of the men in custody traveled “with ease” inside Syria and was in contact with prominent Palestinian figures there.

Assafir also said that investigations were focusing on a sophisticated camera attached to one of the detainees’ SUVs and its global positioning system.

Earlier on Friday, the newspaper, the first to break news of the arrests that apparently took place a couple of weeks ago, said that the alleged spy network was mapping out sensitive locations in Lebanon and Syria, including the Damascus neighborhood where Mughniyah was assassinated.

According to a report in the Lebanese English-language newspaper the Daily Star, those arrested included a relative of a suicide hijacker who piloted a plane in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But the article published today quoted an unnamed security source and failed to mention whether the alleged spy was a close relative of the Lebanese hijacker, identified as Ziad Jarrah. Extended families in Lebanon tend to be very extended. And it's quite possible that a large number of people originate from one village and share the same family name and call themselves "relatives." 

This is not the first alleged network of spies working for Israel to be uncovered in recent years. In June 2006, a spy ring linked to the Mossad was arrested by the Lebanese army and accused of assassinating a senior Palestinian activist in Sidon, a port south of Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government continues to accuse Israel of spying on Lebanon from the skies.

On Friday, Lebanon’s army stated that 12 Israeli warplanes had carried reconnaissance missions over northern and southern parts of the country.

Israel did not comment on the arrest of the alleged spy ring or its air violations over Lebanon. Israel fought a monthlong battle against the Shiite militant group Hezbollah in July 2006.

With all eyes around the world directed toward the United States' presidential elections on Tuesday, the Lebanese are waiting to see how the new president will deal with the situation in Lebanon.

Although the two candidates have different visions on how to solve the problems of the Middle East in general, they both agree on the necessity of disarming Hezbollah and of supporting Lebanon's elected government.

In May, the Democratic candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said in a statement that Hezbollah should be disarmed "before it drags Lebanon into another unnecessary war."

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: The crest of Israel's spy agency, the Mossad. Credit: Wikimedia

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