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LEBANON: Another spy ring allegedly linked to Israel is uncovered

May 4, 2009 | 10:59 am


It’s like a domino effect. Yet another group of spies allegedly working for the Israeli intelligence services was uncovered in Lebanon. 

Local media reported Monday that five more Lebanese recruited by the Mossad were arrested by the official security services during the last week.

This brings to about a dozen the number of suspected Lebanese agents spying for Israel since last November. Most of them are reportedly equipped with sophisticated espionage equipment, including high-end surveillance cameras and communication devices.

So is each of these arrests simply leading to the next spy network? Aren’t espionage rings supposedly isolated from one another? Or are Hezbollah and official Lebanese security services more watchful for infiltrating agents?

Observers say that the Shiite militant group is more aware of being closely spied on, especially following the devastating 2006 war with Israel. It is believed that Hezbollah is collaborating closely with authorities in Lebanon as the driving force behind these arrests.

Although Israeli officials have not commented on the arrests, some Israeli media reports said that the news should not be totally belittled. Last month, the Israeli daily Haaretz said that the unveiling of Israel-linked spy networks might point to weaknesses in the functioning of the Jewish State’s secret services: 

If the Lebanese media reports are correct, the fall of three spy networks should not be taken lightly, especially if the discovery of the first led to the fall of the others. If this is what happened, then someone was clearly careless in running the operations, the basic rule of which is complete compartmentalization between networks and between one agent and another. In such cases, handlers tend to lower their profile and reduce future operations until the storm blows over.

The local newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hezbollah, said in its Monday edition that Israeli intelligence work in Lebanon is being “shamed”.

The daily revealed that some of the networks uncovered had been recruited in recent years, alleging that Israel was eager to reconstruct a “bank of data” on the militant group after its intelligence in Lebanon proved to be seriously compromised during the July 2006 war.

In the details of the latest raids, a man and his wife were reportedly detained in the Southern suburbs of Beirut, where Hezbollah’s strongholds are.

According to the Lebanese daily, Assafir, the man confessed that he had been for several years gathering data on the Shiite militant group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, and his aides.

The newspaper said that the man was regularly traveling to “nearby countries” to deliver information to Israeli agents.

The other three suspected spies were stopped in the village of Habboush in central south Lebanon.

In April, a Lebanese former security officer, his nephew and his wife were arrested and then charged with spying for Israel. The man and his associates were accused of sending out information about Syrian and Lebanese military locations “to facilitate Israeli attacks.”

Local media said that the former officer was armed with advanced communication devices, including one with a hidden compartment via which he communicated with Israeli handlers using coded messages.

Later that month, another group of two Lebanese and a Palestinian, linked by authorities to the former officer, were detained on suspicion of spying for Israel.

In February, a man was also accused of supplying bugged cars to members in the Lebanese militant group for the service of Israeli intelligence.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: Israeli soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint at the entrance of a village on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters