Lebanon is Hotspot for Intelligence Agencies
Experts say Israel targets Lebanese citizens and recruits them to spy on Hizbullah and to monitor security forces’ activities
Lebanon highlighted recent Israeli intelligence activities inside the country, when its military court sentenced two citizens to prison with hard labor for “communicating with Israeli agents and entering an enemy country.”
On Tuesday, a day after the sentences were handed down, the Lebanese Army Command warned citizens against responding to social media messages from the Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency.
“A number of citizens received friendship requests and messages via Facebook … belonging to the Israeli enemy intelligence service,” the statement read, warning against “the consequences of being dragged into these attempts, under threat of legal prosecution.”
Most leading intelligence services in the world have centers of influence in Lebanon
Alain Sarkis, a political researcher and analyst who works at the Nida al-Watan newspaper in Beirut, told The Media Line that it is well-known that Lebanon is considered fertile ground for all intelligence agencies in the world, not only for the Israelis. “Most leading intelligence services in the world have centers of influence in Lebanon,” he said.
Sarkis said that Israel has a different status in Lebanon, where it is classified as an enemy country. In addition to Israel’s intelligence ambitions in Lebanon, there is an ongoing intelligence war with the Iran-backed Lebanese organization Hizbullah.
“The war between Israel and Hizbullah isn’t just a military one, but an intelligence war as well. Israel, now and previously, has been recruiting networks in Lebanon to spy for it, but noticeably most of these networks exist in environments close to Hizbullah,” he said.
Additionally, Sarkis points out that Israel also considers Lebanon an enemy country; thus, it attempts to communicate with Lebanese citizens to recruit them and to create spy networks in order to monitor the activities of the Lebanese security forces.
He added that the timing of the recruitment is linked to continuous Israeli strikes against Iran and Hizbullah in Syria, and that despite the conflict having moved to Syria, it still exists in the Lebanese arena, leading Israel to do its best to find out what is happening in Lebanon.
“The current period is very delicate, especially amid talks of war between Israel and Hizbullah,” Sarkis said.
The Lebanese Military Court announced in a statement on Monday that it had sentenced Lebanese activist Kinda Al-Khatib to three years of hard labor, and stripped her of her civil rights, after she was convicted of communicating with Israeli intelligence agents and visiting an enemy country, in addition to attempting to pass the agents security information. Al-Khatib, in her 20s, was active on social media, where she has harshly criticized Hizbullah, as well as Lebanese President Michel Aoun. She was arrested in June. According to local media reports, she had visited Israel by crossing from Jordan.
The statement added: “The judge also levied a ten-year sentence of hard labor in absentia against Lebanese citizen Charbel al-Hajj, who has been in hiding, stripping him of his civil rights and implementing the arrest warrant issued against him.”
Qassem Qasser, a Lebanese political analyst and writer for multiple media outlets, including Assafir, a daily political newspaper, and Taadudya, told The Media Line that Lebanon has been a center of attention for Israel “since the establishment of the Zionist project,” as many studies and books have emphasized, in order to spy on it, influence the internal Lebanese situation, or to support certain groups in order to benefit from them later.
“Over a period of time, the Lebanese army, the security forces and the resistance managed to blow a good number of Israeli spy networks,” Qasser said. “In previous years, tens of collaborators and groups spying for Israel were revealed, which has negatively affected the Israeli role in Lebanon.”
However, he said that Israel currently is adopting new methods to recruit collaborators in Lebanon, especially through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Unfortunately, some Lebanese were fooled and manipulated, but some of them were revealed. The last of them was Kinda al-Khatib,” Qasser said.
He added that Israel’s interests in Lebanon include the resistance and anything related to it, borders, the historical existence of Jews in the country, and how it can influence the internal situation of the country. “Currently Israelis conduct studies on the Lebanese society and the public opinion in the country, aimed at weakening Hizbollah,” he said.
Over a period of time, the Lebanese army, the security forces and the resistance managed to blow a good number of Israeli spy networks
A study by The Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv released in October indicated that now, “as Lebanon is suffering from one crisis after another – and given the new negotiations on the maritime border – Israel has a golden opportunity to reach out to the hearts and minds of the Lebanese civilians. But this opportunity must be pursued carefully and intelligently.”
Salah Qerata, a Madrid-based security analyst who until 2013 was a senior intelligence officer in the Syrian army, said that Jews were the first in the world to practice intelligence, and Zionism came to develop their skills and direct them to the Arab world to achieve their goals.
“One of the intelligence services’ hobbies is to penetrate each other, depending on the strength or weakness of the apparatus, and I do not think for a moment that Lebanon’s apparatus is of greater strength than the Zionist entity’s apparatus. Especially in light of the political sectarianism that was established to destroy Lebanon,” Qerata said. He said that sectarianism didn’t strike the country but has torn it apart, and this is practically what happened in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
“The goal, first and foremost, is to control the region without direct effort, and without the slightest losses, so the area would be ‘bombed’ by its people,” he said, “meaning historic invasion rather than a forbidden and [internationally] condemned military invasion, and this is what is happening now in Lebanon.”
Qerata added that “modern warfare is to make your opponent kill himself, instead of bothering yourself to kill him.”