Hizbullah flag border 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Two Lebanese citizens suspected of spying for Israel have fled the country and crossed the heavily fortified border into Israel, a senior Lebanese security official said Monday.
The official said the men, one of them a 49-year-old mathematics teacher, entered Israel Monday morning through a gate at the border fence near Kibbutz Bar Am. Each man was accompanied by two of his children, according to the official.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.
Fifteen members of an alleged spy ring, including retired Lebanese general Adib Alam, were recently arrested by Lebanese authorities on suspicion of passing information to Israel.
Lebanon considers itself at war with Israel, and spying for or collaborating with the country can be punishable by death.
Lebanese media reported that the government had asked UNIFIL to act for the return of the escapees.
There was no immediate word from Israel, which has declined to comment on the recent espionage allegations.
The Hizbullah-affiliated al-Manar TV said Lebanese authorities will ask UNIFIL to help repatriate those who have escaped to Israel.
One of the men who escaped early Monday was Lebanese national Elie Toufiq al-Hayek, a mathematics professor who lived in the border town of Qleiaa, a security source told AFP.
He fled to Israel through a concrete wall between the villages of Rmeish and Yaroun, a few kilometers from the border, the source added.
The second man who fled was identified as Hanna al-Azzi from the village of Rmeish.
Their vehicles were found abandoned near the border area, the source told AFP.
Meanwhile, authorities arrested two suspected spies over the weekend in southern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, said security officials. Security forces seized transmission devices in related raids, they said.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Nine of the 15 people arrested in recent weeks have been charged with collaborating with Israel. They include a retired general, his wife and his nephew, a government security agent.
In addition, a top official from a Lebanese municipality was arrested on Saturday and taken in for questioning in an ongoing investigation related to alleged Israeli espionage rings, Lebanese media reported over the weekend.
Ziad Homsi, deputy head of the Saadnayel municipality and former head of the municipality, was reportedly arrested on Saturday.
Lebanese security sources told al-Manar that Homsi had confessed to collaborating with Israel after army intelligence officers found high-tech equipment in his home.
Last week, police displayed sophisticated devices they said were seized from Palestinians living in the country and from Lebanese recruited by Israel to spy on Hizbullah.
AP contributed to this report