Lebanon News

Israeli Arab accused of spying for Hezbollah

An Israeli vehicle patrols the border in Metulla, seen from the southern village of Kfar Kila, Tuesday, July 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Thursday indicted an Arab citizen of Israel on charges of spying for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, accusing him of gathering intelligence on security for Israel's president and on army installations.

The Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency said in a statement that Milad Khatib, 26, from the northern village of Majd al-Krum, was recruited in 2009 by a Lebanese Hezbollah operative in Denmark. He was ordered to collect information on Israeli army bases and armories, as well as details on security guards and motorcades of the Israeli president and other public officials.

In August, Khatib allegedly shadowed a visit by Peres to his home town, collecting information on his security detail. Authorities say he intended to pass the details to his Hezbollah operator but was arrested before he could do so. It was unclear what information, if any, he supplied Hezbollah.

Peres' office did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Hostility between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah runs deep. The two sides fought a bloody, monthlong war in mid-2006 that ended in a stalemate, starting after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

Israel believes Hezbollah possesses more than 40,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking virtually anywhere in Israel.

Hezbollah has developed into a key political force in Lebanon, holding the balance of power in the country's Cabinet.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Khatib first made connection with Hezbollah in 2007 in a series of meetings in Denmark, Morocco and Lebanon, and he conducted a second series of meetings in Turkey and Denmark in 2009 and 2010.

A lawyer for Khatib did not reply to a request for comment.

In recent years, Israel has arrested several other Arab citizens on suspicion of aiding the group.

Azmi Bishara, a former Arab lawmaker, fled Israel in 2007 a few weeks before Israeli prosecutors accused him of supplying intelligence to the Lebanese militants. A 24-year-old woman was jailed the same year for making contact with Hezbollah agents she met while studying in Amman, Jordan.

In 2008, a top Hezbollah commander was killed in a bomb attack in Syria widely attributed to Israel. The following year, Israel indicted a 23-year-old Arab citizen on suspicion of passing information on Israel's army chief of staff - an alleged assassination plot in retaliation for the killing of the Hezbollah commander.

Early last year, Amir Makhoul, a prominent Arab-Israeli activist, was sentenced to nine years in prison after confessing to spying for Hezbollah.

Israel has also blamed Hezbollah and its sponsor, Iran, for a July bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists, as well as earlier bombing attempts on Israelis in India, Thailand, Georgia and Kenya.

Lebanon has also arrested a string of suspects it accuses of spying for Israel.





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