Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets
Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets. Photo by Reuters
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The explosion heard in Lebanon late Wednesday was an Israel Air Force operation aimed at destroying an espionage device it had installed off the coast of the city of Sidon, the Voice of Lebanon radio station reported on Thursday.

The report comes a day after the Lebanese Army said it had uncovered two Israeli spy installations in mountainous areas near Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, The installations included photographic equipment as well as laser and broadcast equipment.

This is the third time within a year that Israeli intelligence gathering installations have reportedly been discovered on Lebanese territory. On the two other occasions, the Lebanese found equipment designed to tap into Hezbollah's independent communications network.

In each case, the Lebanese Army acted on intelligence information provided by Hezbollah itself. If the latest reports from Lebanon are accurate, the discovery would constitute a severe blow to Israel's intelligence-gathering technology in Lebanon. The reported loss to Israel of these intelligence sources follows a wave of arrests more than a year and a half ago of individuals who Lebanon has claimed were agents working on behalf of Israel. In the course of those arrests, nearly 100 Lebanese and Palestinians were detained, including senior Lebanese Army officers.

The Lebanese Army said Wednesday the two surveillance installations had been dismantled. One of the installations included cameras and broadcast and reception equipment through which images were reportedly transferred to Israel. The Lebanese Army said the second facility was more sophisticated.

On December 3, Hezbollah activists found Israeli wiretapping equipment near the southern Lebanese town of Tyre. After it was discovered, the equipment was destroyed by remote control in a blast that injured two Lebanese civilians.

Lebanon filed a protest with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon alleging that Israel was responsible for installing the equipment and then blowing it up.

Hezbollah said the installations were used to tap into the independent fiber-optic communications network that the Islamic organization set up throughout Lebanon in 2008.

In October of last year, Hezbollah operatives uncovered another wiretapping installation near the southern Lebanese village of Houlah. According to Lebanese security officials, the facility had tapped into Hezbollah's independent landline telephone system. Lebanese media at the time, quoting Lebanese security sources as well as sources from Hezbollah and U.N. forces in southern Lebanon, said the equipment consisted of underground Israeli wiretapping installations that Israel blew up by remote control out of concern that they were about to be discovered.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that the equipment served as a surveillance installation but did tell the United Nation that in light of the threat posed by Hezbollah, intelligence operations in southern Lebanon would continue as long as the government in Beirut did not have full control of Lebanese territory.