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Tuesday July 20, 2010 8:29 PM (EST+7)
Israeli spy cases revive divisions in Lebanon

Read more: Israel-Lebanon relations, Lebanon-Israel relations, spy war, spying, Hezbollah

BEIRUT, July 20 (Reuters) - Lebanon's arrest of two telecoms workers could mark a breakthrough in its spy war with Israel but has revived internal divisions that brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2008.

The arrest of Charbel Qazzi and Tareq Raba'a, employees at the state-owned mobile phone firm Alfa, shocked the country and raised fears over how deeply Israel had infiltrated Lebanon's telecoms and security sectors.

Syrian-backed group Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, has suggested the Jewish state could have used agents to manipulate evidence such as phone records to implicate Hezbollah in the 2005 killing of ex-premier Rafik Hariri.

It is now clear beyond any doubt that there is total Israeli control over the telecoms sector (in Lebanon), Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said last week.

We have heard a lot of talk from politicians and security officials in the country that there will be an indictment issued in September or October or November against Hezbollah members.

Supporters of Hariri's son Saad, who became prime minister last year at the head of a unity government after months of political crisis, accused Hezbollah of trying to undermine the work of the international tribunal investigating Hariri's death.

Now we are sure of what we have said before, that the security leakage and the political exploitation of the arrest of the Israeli spies in Alfa aimed at hitting the tribunal, said deputy speaker Farid Mekari.

Hariri himself has not commented.


Media reports have suggested that the tribunal would issue its first indictment in September and some indicated it would point a finger towards members of Hezbollah.

But the United Nation's Special Tribunal for Lebanon has not announced any date for the indictment.

Lebanese media reports and analysts said they expected the indictment to be in the line of what The Der Spiegel's news weekly said last year that Lebanese investigators found a link between eight cell phones used in the area at the time of the attack and a network of 20 other phones believed to belong to Hezbollah's operative arm.

Telecommunications in Lebanon are a sensitive issue. Politicians in the past have accused each other of eavesdropping on telephone calls. Street fighting errupted in May 2008 after the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora took a decision to ban fixed line communication network operated by Hezbollah. The group said the government declared open war against his group through the decision.

Politicians and members in the parliament from both sides has been exchanging tensed remarks daily in Lebanese media with Hariri's camp saying attacking the tribunal could create tension in the country. And Hezbollah's allies warning against accusing the group.

We want the group which has been fixing this telecoms things and feeding the tribuanl with it to admit they manipulated and politicised the tribunal, said a political source from 8 March.

Now there is talking, when the indictment is issued talking will stop and actions begin, he said.

Analysts said the political clash between the two camps have clearly showed how fragile the unity in the country was.

This is the first country in the world which gets divided over spies..this means that this country has never been united, political analysts Rafic Nasrallah said.

It's clear we are heading towards a dramatic situation.

Lebanon has just began catching its breaths after more than five years of troubles. Soaring economic growth, relative calm on its southern border with Israel and a truce between rival politicans have given crisis-ridden Lebanon a window of stability which is translating into a tourist boom.

Analysts agreed that this meant the country has not healed its wounds but rather kept the problems underneath and surfaced at the very first test.

The country is divided, one should not be illusioned and think that people are going to the beach and dining outside, the country is divided, said Oussama Safa, director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies in Beirut,

The country has been on the brink of the abyss for the past five years, an article in the newspaper could inflame the country so what if it is an indictment, he added. (Written By Mariam Karouny)






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