Are US spy agencies sharing weapons, intelligence with Hezbollah?

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In its effort to amass regional support for its war against the Islamic State, the United States is reaching out to militant Shiites in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, according to some sources. In a report for New York-based magazine Newsweek, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein said on Wednesday that the meteoric rise of Sunni radicalism, in the form of the Islamic State, may have prompted the creation of a “de facto US-Saudi-Lebanese-Hezbollah-Iranian” alliance in the Middle East. Although no partner in this informal coalition is willing to admit its role in the collaborative effort, the common goal of eradicating Sunni extremism has brought about an “unwritten, unacknowledged cease fire” between these former adversaries, says Stein, quoting “authoritative sources”. Washington and Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory, have a common interest in combating the Islamic State and preventing its rule from spreading beyond Syria. So the Americans began reaching out to Hezbollah in 2012, says Stein, and have helped bring about a “regional consensus [...] to contain the conflict away from Lebanon and in Syria”. Remarkably, bitter adversaries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran are said to actively subscribe to the Washington-led consensus against the Islamic State. Washington’s decision to reach out to Hezbollah appears to have been prompted by the realization that the militant Shiite group, along with the official Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), were the only actors on the ground capable of fighting and defeating the Islamic State. Last August, says Stein, the US Pentagon unloaded $20 million worth of weapons in Lebanon for use by the LAF. The weapons were reportedly shipped through the Beirut International Airport, which his under the control of Hezbollah. The group promptly transferred the weapons to the LAF, which is traditionally dominated by Christians, but has recently developed an “arm’s length alliance with Hezbollah” due to their mutual concern over the rise of the Islamic State. Stein suggests that the US-Hezbollah relationship may now also include intelligence-sharing. He quotes a number of sources who claim that some Sunni militants have been apprehended thanks to intelligence-sharing between America, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Some claim that Iran acts as a mediator between Washington and Hezbollah, and that British diplomats also mediate between the two sides. Read more of this post

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Mystery spy device found in Lebanon detonates remotely, kills one

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A mysterious spy device found in Lebanon was detonated remotely by what some say was an Israeli drone, killing one man and injuring several others. According to Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV, the alleged spy device was uncovered last week by a Lebanese military patrol near the village of Adloun in southern Lebanon. Most of the region is firmly controlled by Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that governs large swathes of the Lebanese territory. The report was later confirmed by the Lebanese Army, which said that the device had been attached, probably by Israel, to the telecommunications network belonging to Hezbollah. The militant group operates its own telecommunications network and its own news media, including Al-Manar, the television station that broke the news of the discovery of the spy device. However, as soon as Hezbollah forces gathered around the “strange device”, an aircraft appeared overhead and remotely detonated the device “from a distance”. The TV station said Hezbollah member Hassan Ali Haidar was killed in the explosion. Last week’s incident was not the first report of an exploding spy device found attached to Lebanese telecommunications networks. In October of 2009, Lebanese authorities discovered three communications interception devices near Lebanon’s border with Israel. Two of the devices self-destructed by exploding as Lebanese security personnel were approaching. Members of the Lebanese Armed Forces decided to detonate a third device, fearing that it too might explode. A year later, at least two mysterious spy devices were discovered in mountain ranges around the Lebanese capital Beirut. The devices were found carefully concealed inside fake boulders in the mountain of Sannine, directly north of Beirut and in Barouk, which is adjacent to the city’s southern suburbs. The devices consisted of surveillance cameras, electronic transmitters, as well as satellite signal reception systems. Read more of this post

Israel has long list of assassination targets, says analyst

Hassan Lakkis By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The assassination of Hezbollah commander Hassan Lakkis in Beirut, on December 3, sent shockwaves across the Middle East. Lakkis was in charge of advanced weapons planning for the militant Shiite group that controls large swaths of Lebanon. He was killed around midnight local time outside his house in the Lebanese capital, when at least two gunmen opened fire at close range, shooting him several times in the head. Shortly afterwards, Hezbollah openly accused Israel for the murder, while the Jewish state strongly rejected the allegations. But veteran Israeli intelligence commentator Ronen Bergman, who is senior analyst for Israel’s highest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, has little doubt that Israel was behind the attack. In an article published on Thursday in Foreign Policy, Bergman suggests that Lakkis was one of many individuals on an extensive assassination list maintained by Israel’s intelligence agencies. The list is believed to include “leading figures” in what Israeli military and intelligence planners call “the Radical Front”. This term comprises two national governments, namely those of Syria and Iran, as well as leading officials in three militant organizations, Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The longtime Israeli commentator says that the “Radical Front” assassination list was initially compiled in 2004 by Israeli covert-action agency Mossad. Interestingly, its authors did not focus on the political or ideological leadership of targeted organizations. Rather they concentrated upon “the people who handled the details and the translation of strategy into actual practice”. Many of those placed on the list were individuals with “advanced operational, organizational and technological capabilities”, says Bergman. He goes on to list several victims of Israel’s assassination campaigns, including Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah, who died in a massive car explosion in Syrian capital Damascus on February 12, 2008. At the time of his assassination, Mughniyah headed Hezbollah’s security apparatus and was among the organization’s most senior intelligence officials. Another victim mentioned by Bergman is Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman, who had been appointed by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad as Special Presidential Advisor for Arms Procurement and Strategic Weapons. Read more of this post

Mysterious website seeks intelligence on Hezbollah operatives

Hezbollah party workersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Intelligence circles in the Middle East are abuzz with news of a mysterious website that appears to offer substantial financial rewards in exchange for information about alleged members of militant group Hezbollah. The website, located at stop910.com, describes its mission as helping end “Hezbollah-perpetrated terrorism in Lebanon and abroad”. It specifically targets the Lebanese group’s Unit 910, believed to be tasked with international operations, including intelligence gathering from around the world. Hezbollah is a Shiite militant group and political party that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory. It was founded in 1985 in response to the invasion of southern Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces. It is largely funded by Iran and in recent years has come out in support of the Syrian government in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Much of the stop910.com website consists of dozens of photographs of alleged Hezbollah operatives. Some are identified by name or alias, but the website asks for further information on them, including their real name, primary residence and telephone numbers or email accounts associated with them. Other photographs show images of unidentified individuals, whom the website describes as suspects known to be members of Hezbollah’s Unit 910. Next to each photograph, the website provides an allegedly secure link, which visitors can use to upload information and request payment. The website, which is currently blocked by most Lebanese Internet service providers, claims to represent an alliance of Western intelligence organizations. But McClatchy Newspapers contacted two Western intelligence officials who said the website was almost certainly an Israeli effort to gather information on Hezbollah activities. The United States-based news agency said it spoke to an unnamed “official based in Beirut [...], who works for a European intelligence service”. Read more of this post

Hezbollah cell ‘connected with Boko Haram’ arrested in Nigeria

Weapons cache discovered in KanoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nigerian authorities have announced the arrest of three alleged members of Lebanese group Hezbollah, following the discovery of a large weapons and explosives cache in northern Nigeria. Representatives of the West African country’s military and the State Security Service said on Thursday that three Lebanese nationals had been arrested between May 16 and 28. They were identified as Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullah Tahini and Talal Roda, with the latter being a dual Nigerian-Lebanese citizen. They are accused of being members of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory. All were reportedly arrested in Kano city, northern Nigeria’s most notable commercial center, which is home to a substantial Lebanese community of merchants. Nigerian security forces raided a warehouse adjacent to a residence belonging to a Lebanese national, where they discovered a hidden underground bunker below the master bedroom. In there they found and confiscated large quantities of assorted weapons, including a dozen anti-tank rockets, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with 21 missiles, 19 AK-47 and submachine guns, as well as 76 grenades. Nigerian government representatives told local journalists on Thursday that the cache was “a Hezbollah armory” belonging to “a cell of Hezbollah”. A few hours later, officials of Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau (CTB) said Tel Aviv was aware of the Nigerian government’s operation. Read more of this post

Ex-Mossad official denies Zygier compromised intelligence operation

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former Mossad official has dismissed as “nonsense” suggestions that an Australian-born Israeli spy, who killed himself in 2010, had been jailed for inadvertently compromising an Israeli secret mission. Ben Zygier was an officer in Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad for several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February of 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. In March, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel alleged that Zygier was arrested by Israeli intelligence after contacting a Lebanese Hezbollah operative without Tel Aviv’s authorization. The Australian-born spy was allegedly trying to recruit the operative on his own initiative and without permission from his superiors. In order to prove his Mossad credentials, Zygier is said to have given the man several names of Israel’s double agents operating inside Hezbollah. But the Lebanese recruit surrendered Zygier’s information to Hezbollah, which promptly arrested many of Israel’s informants inside the organization. Those arrested included Ziad al-Homsi, who at the time was believed to be one of the Mossad’s most lucrative assets inside the Lebanese militant group. On Tuesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that, at the time of his arrest in Lebanon, al-Homsi was preparing to assist the Mossad in recovering the bodies of three Israeli soldiers that had been killed in Syria during the 1982 Lebanon War. Read more of this post

Israel’s Prisoner X ‘gave Mossad secrets to Hezbollah’: German report

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Australian-born Israeli spy, who killed himself while being held in an Israeli prison in 2010, had been arrested for sharing Israeli secrets with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a German report.  Ben Zygier was an officer in Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad for several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. In February of this year, when an Australian television program identified ‘Prisoner X’ as Zygier, the Australian government admitted it had been aware of its citizen’s incarceration and death, but chose not to extend to him diplomatic support. One of the burning questions in the Zygier case relates to the precise reasons for his detention. On Sunday, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the Australian-born Zygier was arrested by Israeli intelligence after contacting —on his own initiative and without permission— an individual with links to militant Shiite group Hezbollah. According to the Spiegel report, Zygier had been demoted from an operations officer to a desk clerk, having failed to produce actionable results after several years of fieldwork in Europe. Seeing his demotion as a major obstacle to his career, the Australian-born spy allegedly embarked on a ‘rogue’ mission, in an attempt to impress his Mossad superiors. In 2008, when the Israeli government allowed Zygier to return to Australia to pursue graduate studies, he secretly traveled to Europe and established contact with a man from a Balkan country known to have close links with Hezbollah, considered by Tel Aviv as one of Israel’s mortal enemies. Read more of this post

Syrian government accuses Israel of planting spy devices

Alleged spy device found in SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
News media affiliated with the government of Syria accused Israel on Thursday of planting a number of spy devices disguised as rocks, which were found located near “sensitive sites” in the country. The government-owned Syrian Arab News Agency, which published photographs of the alleged spy devices, said they were discovered “in the past few days” at an unspecified region on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Later on the same day, video footage of the devices was aired on Syrian state television. The video footage and photographs show what appear to be large-sized faux rocks. Nestled in their hollow interior are cameras, microphones, transmission devices, as well as large batteries. Syrian media reports said that the transmission gear enabled the devices to broadcast audio and video signals in real time. The camouflaged contraptions closely resemble a number of “mystery devices” found on mountain ranges around the Lebanese capital Beirut in 2010 and 2011. The electronic devices found in Lebanon were hidden under two fake boulders and consisted of surveillance cameras, electronic transmitters, as well as satellite signal reception systems. One of the devices was even connected to a third fake boulder containing long-lasting batteries, which powered the surveillance system. The devices, which were discovered by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, displayed manufacturing labels bearing writing in Hebrew and in English, which included the name of a company called “Beam Systems Israel Ltd”. Read more of this post

New information emerges on Hezbollah commander’s assassination

Imad MughniyahBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Lebanese newspaper has published the most detailed account to date of the 2008 assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah. The car explosion that killed Mughniyah in Syrian capital Damascus on February 12, 2008, is widely believed to have been the work of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost covert-action agency. Mughniyah was among the founders of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that controls large parts of southern Lebanon. At the time of his assassination, Mughniyah headed the Hezbollah’s security apparatus and was among the organization’s most senior intelligence officials. On Tuesday, Arabic-language newspaper al-Akhbar , which is based in Lebanese capital Beirut and is informally affiliated with Hezbollah, published a detailed article that reads like an unclassified version of the militant group’s internal investigation into Mughniyah’s killing. The article claims that “Hezbollah is absolutely positive that Israel was behind [...] the operation from A to Z”. It says that Mughniyah’s assassins “were not Syrian citizens”, but rather entered Syria from abroad and stayed there six weeks while planning and executing the assassination operation. The article also claims that the Mossad recruited a Syrian expatriate, who visited Damascus on a regular basis in order to provide logistical support for the operation. This included renting a villa in the outskirts of Damascus and purchasing at least three vehicles to be used in the operation. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #822 (Israeli airstrikes on Syria)

Mapping of the Israeli airstrikes in SyriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should we be preparing for another Mideast war? Assad may not want a war with Israel, but Tehran could have other calculations. Over the weekend, Iran warned that it would consider any attack on Syria to be an attack on Iran. Claims by Syrian television that Israel hit a research facility near Damascus might be a pretext for an Iranian escalation with Israel. The Israeli army also deployed some of its Iron Dome batteries to northern Israel for the first time. It would not have done so if the chances of a war on Israel’s northern border weren’t increasing.
►►Why did Israel attack Syria now and why did the Syrians admit it? Two days before the Israeli attack on Syria, Iran said it would view any attack on Syrian territory as an attack against Iran itself. But the combination of strategic circumstances in the region at the moment makes the chance of a direct Iranian response unlikely. A Syrian military response seems even less likely, though neither possibility can be ruled out. The most worrying unknown since Tuesday night concerns Hezbollah’s reaction. It seems we are at the beginning of the story —and not the end.
►►Ex-Mossad head says Syria and Hezbollah will not respond. The former Director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, Danny Yatom, has ruled out any response by the Syrian army or Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon to the Israeli attack on Syria. He told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday he did not think there would be “any response, since there is no benefit for Hezbollah and Syria to do so”. He added: “Al-Assad is experiencing deep problems in his country and Hezbollah is doing its best to help him, so I don’t think that they will consider any response”.

Russia evacuating its citizens from Syria: A political turning point?

Busses carrying Russians arrive in LebanonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In a move that surprised observers, the government of Russia began on Tuesday to evacuate its citizens from Syria. Late on Tuesday afternoon, four chartered busses carrying nearly a hundred Russians, mostly women and children, arrived at the Jdaidet Yabous border crossing, which links Syria with Lebanon. As soon as they stepped on Lebanese soil in Masnaa, which is located five miles west of Jdaidet Yabous, the evacuees were met by an official from the Russian embassy in Beirut, who had been waiting for them for several hours. Russian officials dismissed rumors that this is the beginning of a mass evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria. But international observers described this development as “the strongest indication yet” that Moscow is acknowledging the eventual collapse of the regime in Damascus. Russia has persisted in its role as the strongest international backer of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011, when the Syrian uprising against his government began. But many view the Kremlin’s move to evacuate some of its citizens as “a turning point in its view of the civil war” in the Middle Eastern country. According to reports by the Associated Press, the Russians onboard the buses, which had been chartered by the Russian government, appeared to have been briefed to avoid contact with the press at the border crossing. Many covered the bus windows closest to them with curtains so as not to be photographed by journalists, and most refused to speak with press crews. The few who spoke publicly said without exception that they were simply traveling to Russia “to visit relatives”. The evacuees were taken to Beirut, where they have been scheduled to board two airplanes chartered by the Russian government, headed for Moscow. Read more of this post

Revealed: German neo-Nazi who helped Palestinians was CIA agent

Willi Pohl, a.k.a. Willi VossBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A German far-right militant, whose animosity against Jews led him to aid Palestinians kill Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich massacre, says he was later recruited by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Willi Pohl, also known as Willi Voss, 68, was arrested by German authorities a few weeks after Palestinian terrorist group Black September stormed the Olympic village in Munich and took hostage 11 Israeli athletes. All of them were eventually killed by their captors during a botched escape attempt at the nearby Fürstenfeldbruck airport. Voss, who was a known neo-Nazi activist at the time, was charged with possession of weapons and providing logistical support to the Black September militants. However, after his sentence was suspended, Voss managed to secretly emigrate to Beirut, Lebanon, where he was recruited as an agent of Jihaz el-Razd, the intelligence service of the Fatah, the main group in the Palestine Liberation Organization. But in 1975, while on a PLO mission in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, he decided to switch sides. He made the decision after discovering that the car he and his girlfriend were transporting on behalf of the PLO from Beirut to Belgrade contained weapons and highly unstable explosives. He says that the PLO had apparently failed to mention the existence of the hidden items when they asked him to transport the car to Europe. According to Voss’ new book, which has just been published in Germany under the title UnterGrund (Underground), the guns and explosives were discovered by customs officers in Romania (then Rumania); but because at that time the communist country was an ally of the PLO, Voss and his girlfriend were allowed to travel to Belgrade, minus the car and the weapons. Read more of this post

Comment: The Significance of the Killing of Lebanon’s Security Chief

The bombing that killed Wissam al-HassanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS*| intelNews.org |
Perhaps the only concrete reality reflected in last week’s assassination of Lebanon’s security chief is the confusion that continues to dominate Western reporting about Lebanese politics. On Friday, Lebanese capital Beirut experienced its most powerful bombing in nearly four years, when a car laden with explosives detonated killing at least eight and injured nearly 100 people. Among the dead was Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence section of Lebanon’s national police force, known as the Internal Security Forces (ISF).  Hassan, a career intelligence officer, was a Sunni Muslim strongly associated with Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri, who was assassinated in Beirut in 2005, was openly anti-Syrian, as was Hassan. This political identification is extremely telling in a country like Lebanon, which has existed under near-complete Syrian political and military domination for the past three-and-a-half decades. Throughout this period, the position of different actors on the Syrian question has been the core defining parameter in Lebanese politics. The same applies to Lebanese institutions. As one such institution, the ISF is widely perceived as strongly anti-Syrian, and is often considered the main rival of the Security Organ of Hezbollah, the Shiite paramilitary group that controls most of southern Lebanon. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #768

CIA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►‘CIA could get bin Laden but can’t get a gym’. As CIA Director, General David Petraeus is credited by some as having helped turn the tide in the Iraq War, flush the Taliban from southern strongholds in Afghanistan, and infiltrated al-Qaeda in Yemen. But his campaign to improve the Agency’s fitness gyms has been a marathon effort –one that defeated other CIA directors over a course of some 16 years. Petraeus arrived at the CIA in 2011 to find two basement gyms at the Langley, Va., headquarters, one with original flooring dating to 1964. One gym is so small it can’t contain the punching bags and medicine balls that spill into the hall, where people stretch out and do mat exercises.
►►Israel convinced Hezbollah behind Bulgaria bombing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his government has gathered “unquestionable intelligence” showing that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was behind a suicide bombing in Bulgaria last week that killed five Israeli nationals. The Israeli leader said the Mossad had drawn close parallels between the attack in Bulgaria and a foiled operation in Cyprus earlier this month, involving an alleged Hezbollah operative.
►►Hezbollah silent on reports of Israel spy arrests. Hezbollah would not comment on a local newspaper report on Wednesday, which said the Lebanese Shiite party had detained three men, including two of its own members, for spying for Israel. Lebanese daily newspaper An-Nahar said Hezbollah’s security apparatus had detained two Hezbollah members and a member of a Bekaa village municipal council on the suspicion that they have been collaborating with Israel.

Mossad ‘helped arrest’ alleged Hezbollah operative in Cyprus

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, Lebanon By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence was directly involved in the recent arrest of an alleged member of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, who is said to have been planning a series of attacks against Israeli targets on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Cypriot media quoted police spokesman Andreas Angelides, who confirmed that the 24-year-old man was arrested on July 7 during a raid on his hotel in the tourist resort of Limassol. He also said that the man, whose name has not been released, was arrested “on possible charges pertaining to terrorism laws” soon after entering Cyprus using a Swedish passport. According to local media, Cypriot authorities were tipped off as to the man’s alleged Hezbollah connections and plans by an unnamed “foreign intelligence agency”. However, several news reports suggested over the weekend that officers of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad have already been dispatched to Cyprus to aid local counterterrorist officials involved in the investigation. Several sources allege that the Swedish-passport holder has been collaborating with his interrogators, telling them that he traveled to Cyprus with the intent of launching an armed attack at the embassy of Israel in Cypriot capital Nicosia. He allegedly changed his mind after observing the heavy security measures in place at the embassy, and opted instead for a plan to blow up a commercial airplane belonging to El Al Airlines, Israel’s national air carrier. He also allegedly considered attacking a number of buses belonging to Israeli tour companies operating in Israel. Cypriot police said that a thorough search of the man’s hotel room netted information on Israeli bus tour companies on the island, detailed flight schedules of Israeli airline operators, as well as digital photographs of popular destinations among Israeli tourists holidaying in Cyprus. Read more of this post

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