Escaped Israeli Arab convict gave locations of IDF bases to Hizbullah

Galilee man arrested after sneaking back from Lebanon.

An escaped convict who fled to Lebanon revealed locations of IDF bases, details of Nahariya's power and phone grids, and other information about the town's main buildings to Hizbullah, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed yesterday. Arwa Hassan Ali, 22, a resident of western Galilee who fled to Lebanon while on furlough from prison, was caught and held captive by Hizbullah for eight months. He was arrested on December 26 after he was caught sneaking into Ghajar, on the Lebanese border. According to the Shin Bet, Ali also revealed information about two of his relatives who serve in the police, as well as details concerning a doctor and lawyer from his home village. The gag order imposed on the investigation was lifted after Ali appeared before the Haifa District Court, where he was charged with revealing classified information to Hizbullah operatives and violating the terms of his furlough. Ali, a car thief who was serving a sentence at the Carmel Prison, planned his escape on April 5 last year, while on a 48-hour furlough. Prior to leaving the prison, he took a map of northern Israel and Lebanon from the prison library and received details from fellow inmates regarding the best crossing point into Lebanon. He sneaked into Lebanon via Ghajar and shortly after met up with a local Lebanese civilian. He informed the man that he had escaped from an Israeli prison and was invited to his home. Shortly after arriving there, two unarmed men arrived at the house and identified themselves as members of Hizbullah. They immediately questioned him about his personal details and the reason he was in Lebanon. Ali later told Shin Bet officials that for the next eight months he was held captive by Hizbullah, and interrogated every few weeks by four investigators. On December 26, Hizbullah guards informed him he was going to be returned to Israel and asked him to pack his belongings. Shortly after, he was blindfolded and taken in a car and driven to a site near the border fence. Escorted by two Hizbullah gunmen, he was taken to a point near Ghajar and told to cross the fence. His entry was undetected, but shortly afterwards he was arrested by a police narcotics officer who handed him over to the Shin Bet. Security officials noted that the border village of Ghajar has turned into an attractive breeding ground for terror activities. Fenced off on the Israeli side, the northern section is open and Lebanese citizens, as well as Hizbullah operatives, can enter freely. This means that while IDF troops can monitor who enters and leaves the village on the Israeli side, the rear of the village lies in Lebanese territory and allows anyone to enter free of scrutiny. Ghajar was part of an area captured from Syria in the Six Day War. Village residents have Israeli identity cards and receive services from the state. With the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, the village was cut in half by a UN-delineated line. The Lebanese refused to allow Israel to build a security fence around the northern part of the village.