The Internal Security Forces (ISF) Information Division of Lebanon has dismantled more than 15 separate Israeli espionage networks, operating in various Lebanese territories, Al Akhbar reported on 31 January.
The spy rings had reached all the way to Syria, according to sources in the report sources. The Al Akhbar report added that Hezbollah coordinated with Syrian security to arrest the Damascus-based suspect.
The spy ring bust is considered the largest Lebanese security operation carried out since 2009.
The ISF operation was launched by its information branch four weeks ago, after coordination with the Public Prosecution of Discrimination and the leadership of the Internal Security Forces.
The report mentioned that the operation began when infiltration from one of the spy networks was noted within the ISF itself and from there, the operation began to gather information close to ISF leadership about the roles and duties of high-ranking officers.
Next, it was discovered that the infiltration had also reached Hezbollah, where the suspect arrested had been recruited by an organization that claimed to be running statistical polls for the United Nations. The suspect was a reserve fighter who had previously participated in missions in Syria.
The spies in the network came from various Lebanese sects, hailed from different regions of the country, and included Syrian and Palestinian as well as Lebanese nationals.
They were recruited via social media, motivated by the financial conditions of the economic crisis. The ISF’s Information Division arrested 20 suspects, and the number of suspects investigated exceeded 35 in the last month alone.
While at least 12 of the detainees were aware that they were working with Israel, a significant number of the spies operating through NGOs, were unaware that they were collaborating with Tel Aviv.
One of the detainees, who hailed from Tripoli, knowingly joined the collaboration effort because he “hated Hezbollah” and was “ready to do anything against the party.”
The detainee confessed to contacting the Israelis, who made him take a polygraph examination and trained him to operate unmanned aircraft in Jordan.
Another detainee by the name of Sergio worked in an non-governmental organization established following the October 2019 demonstrations.
Sergio received funding to distribute masks imprinted with the words: “All means all … and Nasrallah is one of them.”
Another detainee admitted to shipping SIM cards hidden in a book via DHL to Israelis in an overseas location.
The spies were financed through the receipt of small amounts of funds transferred in increments through money transfer agencies like Western Union.
In addition to Hezbollah, the spy ring also attempted to target Hamas in Lebanon.
An 8 January raid by the ISF in Saida led to the arrest of several people, including a Palestinian who runs a “human development training center” that organizes training courses for local municipalities.