An extensive history of Israeli espionage and reconnaissance activities was unveiled to the public on Monday by the leader of Hizbullah, who demanded that the government form a committee to study information that he said should be investigated as part of the probe into former Premier Rafik Hariri’s killing.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a two-hour presentation of the information during a news conference in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where some 150 members of the media gathered to watch him via video link.
Nasrallah disclosed that in 1997, the resistance intercepted Israeli transmissions from its aerial reconnaissance aircraft, and he aired a series of excerpts of this footage, predating Hariri’s February 14, 2005, killing.
The footage was divided into three sections: it covered extensive shots of the area between the St. George Club, where Hariri was killed by a truck bomb, and the late premier’s residence in Qoreitem, with repeated shots of turns in the road along Corniche al-Manara. Nasrallah said the footage indicated that the Israelis were likely studying methods of carrying out bombings and assassinations, since official motorcades slow down at such turns.
The footage included shots of what Nasrallah said was Hariri’s path to his vacation residence in Faqra, Kesrouan, as well as the city of Sidon, with a focus on the residence of his brother, Shafik.
“And there are no Hizbullah centers or homes of officials in these areas,” he said.
Nasrallah added that the resistance had begun assembling the footage only in the last two years, from an accumulated store of material, and hadn’t had time to compile similar excerpts of Israeli reconnaissance around the areas frequented by other politicians who were assassinated in the wake of Hariri’s killing.
“This isn’t definitive proof,” he said, “but it opens up new horizons for the investigations.”
Nasrallah added that the aerial reconnaissance footage was necessarily incomplete, because the resistance was unable to crack some of its encoding.
“Just because we don’t have footage of [a given location], doesn’t mean the Israelis didn’t take pictures of it,” he said.
The secretary general said his party wouldn’t present the evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, since he had “no trust” in the body, but expressed his hope that the Lebanese government would act on it.
He added that if the STL ignored the material, “it will confirm our logic, that it’s politicized.”
Nasrallah said other information held by Hizbullah would remain secret for now, but could become public if the need arose.
He denied that he was harming the military capabilities of the resistance by disclosing that it had cracked the Israeli reconnaissance transmissions, indicating that the 1997 Insariya operation had generated “the hypothesis” on the part of the Israelis that their transmissions had been compromised.
On September 5, 1997, a 15-man Israeli commando team was ambushed in the southern village by the resistance, which had learned of their route thanks to intercepted aerial footage.
Nasrallah began the news conference by detailing Israel’s attempts, as far back as the mid-1990s, to plant the notion that Hizbullah intended to assassinate Hariri, and aired the confessions of an Israeli agent, Ahmad Nasrallah, who succeeded in convincing members of Hariri’s security detail that this was the case.
The Syrians, he said, took the information so seriously that they arrested Salameh, a Hizbullah operative, causing Nasrallah to lobby Syria’s then-senior intelligence figure in Lebanon, General Ghazi Kenaan, for his release.
Ahmad Nasrallah was later arrested on suspicion of being an Israeli agent, but released by the Lebanese judiciary in 2000, prior to the liberation of the south, and then fled to Israel, where Hizbullah’s leader said he was still active in recruiting agents.
Nasrallah also aired brief footage of half-a-dozen suspected Israeli agents, all Lebanese, and highlighted information obtained during their interrogations. More than 150 suspected agents have been rounded up in 2009 and
One suspect, Philipos Sader, was tasked with monitoring President Michel Sleiman and army commander General Jean Kahwaji. Nasrallah said Sader was tasked with focusing on Sleiman’s residence in Amsheet, Jbeil, and gathering information about Kahwaji’s yacht.
“If Syria, or Hizbullah, were found to be gathering such information, what would have happened?” he asked rhetorically.
Other alleged agents, Nasrallah continued, had confessed to gathering information about the movements of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
The case of Mahmoud Rafeh, the agent who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, covered the planting of bombs in Naameh in 1999 and Zahrani in 2005. The latter incident, which saw the discovery and dismantling of the explosive, could have been an unsuccessful attempt to kill Speaker Nabih Berri.
Nasrallah raised the case of Ghassan Jidd, an Israeli agent who he said fled the country in 2009, three years after the resistance alerted the authorities to his suspicious movements. He said the resistance had evidence that Jidd was in the St. George area on February 13, 2005, a day before Hariri’s killing, but declined to describe the evidence, vowing to submit it to any concerned body.
Nasrallah’s news conference sought to highlight the fact that Israeli agents have carried out a wide range of tasks, such as helping Israeli operatives and commandos enter and exit the country, usually by sea. He urged that the sum total of Israeli espionage committee be gathered by a semi-official or official body and “mapped out,” to get a sense of the scope of this activity.