Lebanese citizen close to Hezbollah admits to spying for Israel - report

The citizen reportedly provided Israeli intelligence with the phone numbers and locations of a number of Hezbollah officials.

 HEZBOLLAH MEMBERS hold flags marking Resistance and Liberation Day, in Kfar Kila near the Lebanese border with Israel in May. (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
HEZBOLLAH MEMBERS hold flags marking Resistance and Liberation Day, in Kfar Kila near the Lebanese border with Israel in May.
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)

A Lebanese citizen whose family is close with Hezbollah turned himself in and admitted to working with Israel, the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The citizen, a 21-year-old from al-Asira in the Baalbek area, said that he had communicated with Israel through an application provided by an Israeli operator and had decided to turn himself in after "his conscience was awakened," according to the report.

The young man had been working with Israeli intelligence since 2018 to provide the personal information and phone numbers of Hezbollah members.

The citizen came into contact with Israeli intelligence through a website launched by Israeli authorities to attract agents and spies, Al-Akhbar claimed, with investigators telling the newspaper that this "showed audacity that surprised the Israelis in his willingness to volunteer for this job, in addition to his skill in using devices and applications.”

The alleged spy “is the son of a conservative family, is financially comfortable and is known for his calmness,” according to the report. As part of his operations for Israeli intelligence, he opened a cell phone shop and sold devices that he received through his Israeli operators in order to earn money.

A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020 (credit: REUTERS/ALI HASHISHO)A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020 (credit: REUTERS/ALI HASHISHO)

Al-Akhbar reported that the alleged spy spoke with Israeli intelligence while using a virtual private network to hide his activity and was able to "provide his operators with the phone numbers of party officials and non-partisan officials, in addition to sending a private location of a number of them from the phone of his father, a party official."

The young man told security services that he had decided to give himself up after a number of other alleged spies were discovered and due to fears that his relatives would harm him if they found out about his case.

According to the report, Lebanon's Internal Security Forces and Hezbollah's security apparatus has found hundreds of such spies, many of whom were not aware that they were speaking with Israeli intelligence.

Lebanon claims it caught 17 spy networks working for Israel

In January, Lebanese Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi announced that 17 spy networks working for Israel were caught throughout Lebanon recently.

An Al-Akhbar report at the time claimed that the Information Branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces Directorate had launched an operation four weeks prior to dismantle the spy networks one by one. The newspaper added that the branch was trying to keep the operation under wraps by claiming that the suspects were arrested for fraud and drug crimes.

Al-Akhbar claimed that "very sensitive" information showed that, in the past two years, Israeli intelligence has succeeded in conducting a number of "remarkable" operations in Lebanon and Syria and possibly in other locations as well.

According to the report, a special officer reported to the Information Branch that he had found a sign of work being conducted for an operation, with follow-up work finding a connection to Israel. The tip set off the branch's largest-ever operation against Israeli intelligence, with the case involving dozens of people suspected of supplying Israel, directly or indirectly, with or without prior knowledge, with information related to its goals.

The spies were monitoring not just Hezbollah, but also the Palestinian factions in Lebanon, including Hamas. The network had also managed to penetrate into the Information Branch itself and get very close to its leadership, according to Al-Akhbar.

The report additionally claimed that the cell was linked to the explosion of a Hamas weapons depot in the Burj al-Shamali refugee camp in southern Lebanon in December.

The spies were communicated with via websites and closed chat rooms, as well as phone calls via Lebanese phone lines, according to the report. The Information Branch reportedly revealed that Israel was using a new method of operation, conducting most of its recruitment of agents through social media, with the motive of many of the agents being money due to the worsening economic crisis in Lebanon.

The agents received payments through money transfer companies with the source of the funds coming from locations in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. The suspects came from all sects and a number of nationalities, according to the report, including Sunni, Shi'ite, Druze and Christian Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians. The networks operated throughout Lebanon.