army officer 'spied for Hizbollah in return for drugs'
By Alan Philps in Jerusalem
October 24, 2002
A senior Israeli army officer was under arrest last night accused
of spying for the Lebanese Muslim guerrillas of Hizbollah in exchange
for large quantities of drugs.
The Shin Bet security service arrested the suspect six weeks ago
with 10 accomplices involved in selling on the drugs, hashish and
heroin from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, officials said.
The courts banned the publication of the officer's name and position,
but he was understood to hold a senior post in Israel's northern
command, which controls the border with Lebanon.
He is understood to be a Bedouin Arab, as are the alleged accomplices,
who are all civilians.
Israel's Bedouin minority are allowed to volunteer for the forces
and many work as trackers, using their desert skills to find traces
of armed infiltrators or smugglers.
It is not the first time that Israelis have been tempted to deal
in Lebanese drugs; a case is currently pending against a civilian.
But it is special because of the suspect's high position and the
public hatred of Hizbollah, which has been fighting Israel for more
than a decade.
Families of three Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbollah in a cross-border
raid will want to know if the suspect helped the guerrillas.
The Israeli government has not received any firm word of the soldiers'
fate, though it is possible they may not have survived the ambush.
There is also a public clamour to know if infiltrators who climbed
the border fence in March and killed seven Israelis were helped
by the suspect.
Security officials said the case was extremely worrying. It takes
place against a background of rising concern at the loyalty of the
million-strong Arab minority.
The Israeli army withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000 after
a long, unsuccessful battle against the guerrillas. But the border
remains tense as Hizbollah has refused to accept one part of the
United Nations-delineated frontier line and has launched continuing
The suspect's defence lawyer told Israel Radio that the charges
were false. His client was "extremely loyal" and had been
framed by known drug dealers and jealous rivals of his clan.
He is thought to have been wounded during service in Lebanon by
a roadside bomb laid by Hizbollah. Charges to be brought against
him in a military court are expected to include aggravated espionage,
contact with foreign agents and assistance to the enemy at the time
Security agents started hunting him after the March infiltration
near Metsuba, a kibbutz close to the frontier. The infiltrators
were killed and one had an Israeli mobile phone which gave leads
to contacts in Israel involved in the drug trade.
Though the border is heavily guarded, packages of drugs can be
tossed over to the Israeli side to be picked up by a soldier with
authorisation to reach the border.
Eight Israeli army reservists petitioned the High Court
yesterday to allow them to refuse to serve in the occupied territories,
saying they had a duty to stay out of a "system of collective
punishment" of the Palestinians.
They are among 140 reservists who have refused to serve in the
territories, usually receiving a punishment of 35 days in an army
jail. This is the first time the issue has been aired in court.
The eight asked the court to rule that Israel's 33-year occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza Strip had become illegal and it was a
soldier's right and duty to refuse to serve in "one huge prison".