Lebanon says Israeli spy cell exposed

Report: "Prominent" ring had been active in Lebanon since 1990.

Mahmoud Kassam Rafa (photo credit: )
Mahmoud Kassam Rafa
(photo credit: )
Lebanese security forces have uncovered what they claimed was a "prominent" Israeli spy ring that had been active in Lebanon since 1990, the Lebanese As-Safir newspaper reported on Monday. The newspaper stated that several days ago Lebanese security forces arrested Mahmoud Kassam Rafa from the town of Hazbaya in southern Lebanon. The spy network allegedly included Rafa and members of his family. During his interrogation, according to the report, Rafa not only confessed to his involvement in the assassination of senior Islamic Jihad operative Mahmoud Majzoub in Beirut last month, but also to the assassination of Hizbollah member Ali Salah and to other alleged terror attacks in the Lebanese capital and the south of the country.
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Lebanese officials had linked the hit to Israel. They claimed that Rafa was only one of several Lebanese and Palestinian agents operating in Lebanon for Israel. They added that an inspection of Rafa's home - including his personal computer, documents and apparently Israeli-made electronic equipment - further strengthened their argument that the findings were connected to Israel. A surveillance tail was put on Rafa after it became evident that his car had been used in the Majzoub hit. Rafa, a 59-year old retired policeman, had become considerably wealthier following the blast last month. One Lebanese official told Reuters on Saturday that the suspect's ties with Israel had been "100 percent confirmed." "Documents and equipment linked with the crime were seized with him, and he has links to the intelligence of the Israeli enemy," the official said. The allegations that Israel was responsible for the blast were adamantly rejected by Israeli officials. The blast that killed the Majzoub brothers was followed two days later by armed guerillas in Lebanon launching several Katyusha rockets into Israel, precipitating the most severe exchange of fire between the two countries since Israel retreated its forces out of Lebanon in May, 2000.