Lebanon uncovers more Israeli 'spies'

The capture of another group of alleged "Israeli spies" in Lebanon indicates the depth of Israel's penetration into the country's infrastructure and upper echelons.

Last week Charbel Qazzi, a senior executive at the Alfa mobile phone company, in charge of transmissions and broadcasting, was arrested on suspicion that he had helped Israeli intelligence plant listening devices at the heart of Lebanon's telecommunications infrastructure. The detention is causing shockwaves that are reverberating throughout the country's business, political and security circles.

An unspecified number of other Lebanese civilians working with Mr Qazzi have also been arrested and, according to reports in the Arab media, parliament members may also be questioned.

Official sources in Israel have not commented on the developments. The government and security establishment almost never comment on allegations regarding intelligence-gathering operations and they did not comment last year either, when dozens of Lebanese civilians and officers were arrested for spying for Israel. Those suspects also included senior officials in the local communications infrastructure.

The recent unveiling of the alleged Israeli agents was made possible to a large degree by sophisticated counterintelligence apparatus supplied to the Lebanese government by the American administration in the hope that it would allow the Hariri government to better confront its internal rivals, the Hizbollah and Syrian agents still very active in Lebanon. But Hizbollah and pro-Syrian elements exist also within the Lebanese security services and the apparatus has been used mainly to try to uncover agents working for Israel.

While the uncovering of the alleged spies was a success for the counter-intelligence effort, the number of agents and the central positions they held has raised Lebanese fears that there are still others. As the former commander of the Research Branch in the IDF's Intelligence Corps, Major General (ret) Yaakov Amidror, wrote last week: "If the reports in Lebanon are true, then above all, it is clear that Israel enjoyed significant success in enrolling many Lebanese."

    Last updated: 1:39pm, July 8 2010