Babylon & Beyond

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LEBANON: Hezbollah accuses Israel of framing group in Hariri killing

November 28, 2010 |  1:52 pm

Nasrlallah Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was trying to strike back against media reports seeming to implicate his group in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

But he was forced to admit something big: that his highly secretive organization may have been infiltrated by Israel.

During a speech Sunday for recent university graduates, Nasrallah claimed that Lebanese cellphone networks were compromised by Israeli intelligence services that he claimed fabricated data records to cast suspicion on Hezbollah.

“Many people have been called in as Israeli agents based on telecommunications data, but after they undergo interrogation, it becomes evident they are not," he said. “This proves that Israel has full control of our telecommunications sector."

How credible are Nasrallah's claims? In theory, it's possible. Telecommunications experts say the technology exists. Phones can be cloned or hacked for short periods and outgoing and incoming calls and text messages can be fabricated.

"This is a fact and it exists all over the world," Riad Bahsoun, a Lebanese telecom specialist, told Babylon & Beyond. "All you need is the software, a laptop and access to the authentication center of a [cellphone] network, and you can absolutely clone the number."

Earlier this year, Lebanese authorities arrested several suspected Israeli spies working in the Lebanese telecommunications sector, and last week the minister of telecommunications, Charbel Nahhas, held a press conference to announce that the network had been significantly compromised.

Nasrallah's latest speech comes against a background of rising tensions as the United Nations-backed tribunal investigating Hariri's killing is expected to issue indictments against members of Hezbollah. 

Rafik Hariri's son, Saad, is Hezbollah's political rival. Syria is a Hezbollah patron. Hariri is visiting Tehran this weekend.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said Lebanon's telecommunications sector has been compromised by Israeli intelligence. Credit: Al Manar