Israeli spy cells aimed to destroy Hizbullah
By Dalila Mahdawi and Carol Rizk
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
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BEIRUT: The guiding objectives behind Israel’s spy network in Lebanon were to “destroy” the Hizbullah-led resistance and kill its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, As-Safir newspaper quoted well-informed sources as saying on Tuesday. Though Israeli spy operations first emerged shortly after Tel Aviv declared independence in May 1948, Israel’s failure to obliterate Hizbullah when the two engaged in a 34-day war in July-August 2006 apparently prompted Tel Aviv to step up its covert operations in Lebanon.
Israel considered “the only way to make up for the 2006 defeat and to avoid a third war with Lebanon was to get rid of [Hizbullah chief Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah” and to destroy “everything related to” Hizbullah, sources studying the spy networks told As-Safir. Those recruited not only reported on Hizbullah operations but also delivered information about the group’s ties with Syria and Iran and Lebanese national security measures, a Lebanese security source said. Collaborators were also expected to renew relations with former spies and reactivate dormant networks.
Lebanon has arrested more than 70 people since January on suspicion of spying for Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad, in a high-profile campaign to dismantle spy cells operating in the country. Around 40 of those individuals – 37 Lebanese, two Palestinians and one Egyptian – are now in custody, according to AFP, including a number of Lebanese government officials.
Poor coordination between Lebanon’s military and security services have allowed a number of spies to flee, the security source told the paper. Lebanese authorities admit that a handful of suspected collaborators have crossed into Israel.
According to the unidentified sources, Israel recruited spies by placing job adverts in local newspapers, through Lebanese collaborators who sought refuge in Israel in 2000, or by luring them in with money and women. Once initiated, collaborators would meet with their Israeli liaison officers in Lebanese towns or further afield such as in Cyprus, Hong Kong or Belgium. Spies mostly communicated with cell phones and emails.
In May, Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces displayed what appeared to be sophisticated espionage equipment, including a water cooler equipped with a mapping device, a stereo concealing USB storage capabilities and hi-tech cameras and detection gadgets. Lebanon’s civil and political sectors should “immunize themselves to the highest degree because the spies recruited came from various backgrounds: military officers, housewives, farmers, immigrants, taxi drivers,” and so on, one security source urged.
“Social burdens weigh upon everyone, but the fate of these spies will serve as a lesson to those thinking about working for Israel. Everyone should be on the lookout,” the source warned, citing national unity as the best way to combat covert Israeli operations in Lebanon.
Beirut considers itself in a state of war with Israel, and Lebanese citizens are prohibited from having contact with Israelis or from visiting Israel. Those convicted of spying or high treason in Lebanon can be sentenced to death or life imprisonment with hard labor.