Hezbollah has detained four of its own members on charges of spying for Israel while a fifth has fled, the London-based daily Asharq Alawsat reported this weekend.

Quoting “well-informed Lebanese sources,” the paper said the fifth operative had gone missing amid suspicions he too had collaborated with Israel. The operative, named only as M.S., disappeared from his home in southern Beirut last week. Little is known about him other than that he is said to have testified in the UN Special Tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

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On Thursday, Hezbollah issued a statement denying the detention reports as “baseless.”

In June, Hezbollah held two of its operatives on charges of collaborating with the CIA, and a third man alleged to have worked with another foreign intelligence service.

Leaked US diplomatic cables released last month by WikiLeaks revealed that Lebanon's parliamentary speaker, seemingly a close Hezbollah ally, had actually hoped Israel would deal a severe blow to the extremist group during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

A July 2006 cable, filed by then-US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, said the speaker, Nabih Berri, “condemned the ferocity of Israel’s military response but admitted that a successful Israeli campaign against Hezbollah would be an excellent way to destroy Hezbollah’s military aspirations and discredit their political ambitions.”

Berri is a veteran Shi’ite politician who has held the speaker position for the better part of two decades. He is head of the Amal movement, like Hezbollah, a Shi’ite-dominated party, but unlike the latter, comparatively secular.

“We are certain that Berri hates Hezbollah as much, or even more, than the [Western-backed] March 14 politicians; after all, Hezbollah’s support...is drawn from the Shi’ites who might otherwise be with Berri,” wrote Feltman, now assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

Feltman described the Amal leader as being in “remarkably high” spirits during the meeting, which came a few days into the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah, at one point throwing his head back in “riotous laughter.”

Feltman also wrote that Berri felt betrayed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who had promised stability in Lebanon.

“We can never sit down at the table with him [Nasrallah] again,” he quoted the speaker as saying in the cable. “We think he lied to us.”

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