May 11, 2009
Lebanese police displayed sophisticated devices Monday that they said Israel used to spy on Hezbollah, including a water cooler fitted with sensors to survey the landscape.
Other devices shown to reporters and photographers included a car battery charger that the police said was used to store and transmit data and USB flash drives containing detailed maps of Lebanon. Some of the maps showed bridges and military outposts that were hit by Israeli warplanes during the 2006 war with Hezbollah, police said.
The equipment was seized from Palestinians and from Lebanese who were spying for Israel, they said.
In recent weeks, Lebanese authorities say they have arrested at least 14 suspected spies in the latest episode in the long-running espionage battle between the two countries.
The arrests, which took place mainly in southern Lebanon, appear to be part of a stepped-up campaign against those suspected of gathering information on Hezbollah militants for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 in Israel.
“Based on the investigation, it appears that their basic logistics mission focused on defining locations, targets, buildings and outposts as demanded by the enemy intelligence,” a police officer told reporters as he displayed the captured items at police headquarters.
The suspected spies were also asked to monitor specific people and strategic targets and to conduct a wide-scale survey of many areas in Lebanon and Syria by using highly sophisticated surveying equipment, the officer said, refusing to be identified by name in line with government regulations.
“Military maps were seized from some agents who defined hundreds of targets in Lebanese territory” before and after the 2006 war, the officer said. He added that investigation showed that all these targets, including buildings, bridges and military outposts, were bombed by Israeli warplanes during the war.
A masked officer pointed to the items as his colleague read from a prepared statement and refused to take questions.
He said the agents used the equipment provided to them by Israel to relay information via “coded radio messages” through satellite or the Internet. One coded transmission device shown to reporters was built into the interior of a cabinet.
Officers also seized forged Lebanese passports and job application forms that they said were to be filled out by potential agents either in southern Lebanon or abroad in the name of a commercial company.
Most of the recent arrests were based on information from a retired Lebanese general charged with spying for Israel last month along with his wife and his nephew, who was a government security agent, Lebanese security officials have said.
Israeli officials have refused to comment on the recent arrests. “It is not our practice to comment on these sorts of allegations when they arise, not in this case, not in any case,” government spokesman Mark Regev said Friday.
Lebanon considers itself at war with Israel and bans its citizens from having any contact with the Jewish state.
Hezbollah’s TV station has said the arrests were the result of coordinated efforts between the group’s security branch and the intelligence arms of the police and the military.