Lebanon: ‘Israeli markings’ on uncovered spy device

LAF website publishes pictures of alleged Israeli espionage equipment found near Beirut; Suleiman announces cooperation with Hizbullah.

Hebrew Spy Equipment 311 (photo credit: LAF Website)
Hebrew Spy Equipment 311
(photo credit: LAF Website)
The Lebanese Armed Forces on Thursday released pictures of what it said were Hebrew markings on espionage equipment it claimed to have uncovered on mountaintops earlier this week. A photograph released by the LAF shows a sign saying “Mini Cloud” in Hebrew and “Beam Systems Israel LTD” in English.
Also on Thursday, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman lauded the cooperation between the Lebanese Armed Forces and Hizbullah that led to the discovery of the alleged Israeli spy equipment.
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Israeli officials have made no comment on the claims, whose authenticity is unclear.
One of the long-range spy systems was reportedly discovered on Mount Sannine, which overlooks Beirut and the eastern Bekaa Valley, and the second was found on Mount Barouk, southeast of the capital, the army said in a statement, which credited Hizbullah with providing information that enabled the discoveries.
Meanwhile, Lebanese media reported that an explosion that rocked the city of Sidon on Wednesday night was caused by an Israeli bombing of one of its sea-based intelligence- gathering units. The IDF had issued a rare statement Wednesday night denying that it was involved in an operation near Sidon.
If reconnaissance equipment was discovered on the mountains, which have a clear view of the Beirut-Damascus Highway and the Bekaa Valley – a Hizbullah stronghold – it could mean that it was placed there to follow the smuggling of weaponry from Syria into Lebanon and possibly even designate potential targets.
If the equipment, which included cameras and laser designators, was planted by Israel, then one key question is when this was done. One possibility is that it was placed there during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when thousands of IDF soldiers were operating inside Lebanon. Another possibility is that the equipment was placed there recently in covert operations.
The discovery of alleged Israeli spy equipment hidden in boulders deep inside Lebanon could constitute a significant blow to intelligence. Tellingly, however, the much-hyped claims about the finds are timed to bolster Hizbullah’s efforts to draw attention away from its troubles and to a common enemy – Israel.
For Hizbullah, the ostensible discovery of the equipment is significant since it helps divert attention from the imminent expected indictment of top Hizbullah operatives by the United Nations tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Hizbullah is extremely concerned that some of its top operatives will be accused of responsibility for the Hariri assassination. If this happens, it would contradict the image Hizbullah has tried to create of being the defender of Lebanon against the Israeli threat. The “discovery” of the alleged Israeli spy equipment shows that the Israeli threat still exists.
In other developments in Lebanon on Thursday, clashes erupted between residents in the south of the country and officers from the UNIFIL peacekeeping force. According to a report in the Lebanese press, residents of Tayri, a Hizbullah stronghold, clashed with French soldiers who were trying to demarcate a location near the village.
UNIFIL’s mandate is supposed to allow the peacekeepers access throughout southern Lebanon, but over the past year, locals – who Israel believes are being egged on by Hizbullah – have increased their active opposition to the UN force’s daily patrols.
Israeli defense officials have said that the increase in clashes was likely a sign that Hizbullah was pressured by the UNIFIL presence, which was slightly impairing the guerrilla force’s ability to operate out in the open.