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Lebanese find alleged Israeli spies in their midst

Cooperation between Lebanese security agencies and Hezbollah leads to a number of arrests.

Goksel said Hezbollah realizes they are no longer “untouchable,” and that the group knows it has been at least partially infiltrated by Israeli agents. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, hasn’t appeared in public for more than a year — he addresses his supporters via videolink from an undisclosed location.

“Their security has tightened up,” he said. “That’s why you never see Nasrallah, because they realize that the penetration is beyond the Mossad’s own capabilities. The Israelis are running very effective extensions in Lebanon, of local people. It’s not easy to penetrate [Lebanon] with foreign agencies, but if they’re local guys, who blend in and able to move anyplace in country, then that’s a different story, and it’s very scary.”

One of the alleged spies discovered by Hezbollah was a Lebanese man in the southern town of Nabatieh, who was hired to acquire and service vehicles for the group’s senior leaders. He was allegedly caught putting GPS tracking devices on the vehicles.

Another alleged spy was Ziyad Homsi, the former deputy mayor of the Bekka valley town of Saadnayel. The Lebanese newspaper Al Safir reported that Homsi had told interrogators he was paid $100,000 by the Israelis, and that his mission was to meet Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, a goal he didn’t accomplish.

Other spies in Lebanon were allegedly caught in possession of sophisticated technology to monitor and communicate with their minders. Lebanese security agents with their faces covered showed off what they said was captured spy equipment at a press conference in May, including computers, radios, a water cooler that concealed a tracking device and a chest containing a secret communication gadget.

There are several theories as to why the dramatic capture of so many spies happened at once. Hezbollah’s Musawi said he thought that once Lebanese security agencies busted one spy cell, the members revealed other cells and members fell like dominoes. Musawi also said that Hezbollah had tipped off the Lebanese security forces about some of the suspected spies.

“There is coordination between [Hezbollah] and the Lebanese Army and different security apparatuses in the country … in order to insure the safety of Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Musawi said.

Goksel says he thinks the spies may have recently been ordered to find targets for their Israeli minders in case there's another war, and thus were more exposed than they had been in years, which made it easier for Lebanese security forces to detect them. He also points out that the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, the agency taking much of the credit for the busts, are freshly trained thanks to $400 million in security assistance from the U.S. during the last three years. A Headline in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in May asked the question, “Did U.S. help Lebanon crack alleged Israeli spy rings?”

The Lebanese government has complained to the United Nations about the Israeli cells. Last Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “concerned” about the spies and how they could “endanger the fragile cessation of hostilities that exists between Israel and Lebanon.”

Hezbollah’s Musawi said the cells were another violation of Lebanese sovereignty, like the Israeli aircraft that fly surveillance missions over Lebanon on a weekly basis.

“This shows you how the Israelis have never really left the arena, that they are always there, and they are always trying,” he said.

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