Lebanon arrests 185 suspected of spying for Israel

Lebanese security services say Israel is trying to recruit intelligence agents as part of its conflict with Hezbollah

UN peacekeeping force members at a crossing in Naqoura, near Lebanon's border with Israel. AFP
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Lebanon has arrested 185 people suspected of collaborating with Israel since Lebanon's economic collapse three years ago, which left many Lebanese desperate for cash, two security sources told AFP on Wednesday.

That number has jumped significantly from a previous average of four or five arrests a year, one of the sources said.

"This is the first time that so many people have been arrested on charges of collaborating with Israel, and it's because of the crisis," the other security source said.

Lebanon has been battered by a severe financial and economic crisis since 2019 that has caused the national currency to crash, led banks to freeze deposits and plunged much of the population into poverty.

"This was a boon for the Israelis, who targeted Lebanese on social media with job advertisements for phoney companies," the second source said.

A recruiter would then call the applicants, some of whom did not know they had been contacted by an Israeli spy agency.

Out of all those arrested since 2019, only three had been allegedly working with Israel prior to the crisis, one of the sources said. Of the 185, 165 have so far been prosecuted with 25 convicted and sentenced.

Lebanon technically remains at war with Israel and forbids citizens from having any contact with Israel or travelling there.

Of the suspects, two had directly approached Israel's Mossad intelligence agency for work via its website.

Several detainees who suspected that they had been contacted by Israeli intelligence "carried on anyway because they did not have a problem with Israel and hated Hezbollah", the Iran-backed armed group with huge sway over political life in Lebanon, one source said.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a 33-day war in Lebanon in 2006.

Earlier this year Lebanon arrested 21 people suspected of being spies for Israel, a judicial source told AFP in January.

Lebanese security services have arrested dozens over the years on suspicion of collaborating with Israel, with some receiving jail terms of up to 25 years.

Between April 2009 and 2014, Lebanese authorities detained more than 100 people accused of spying for Israel, most of them members of the military or telecom employees, before the rate of arrests declined for several years.

Updated: December 07, 2022, 3:29 PM