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Hezbollah intelligence listened to cell phone conversations by Israelis, including Israel Defense Forces officers, as part of its extensive intelligence gathering operation during the recent Lebanon war.

The organization also eavesdropped electronically on messages sent to pagers; some of these messages were transferred through satellite uplinks.

Just as Hezbollah improved its ability to utilize the antitank weapons it acquired and its network of tunnels and bunkers, both along the border and inside southern Lebanon, it also made significant efforts to improve its intelligence gathering apparatus.

This effort was primarily aimed at gathering intelligence on IDF units and their movements, both inside and outside Israel.

This is clearly evident in the way Hezbollah operatives managed to track and map the movement of IDF patrols along the border, and thus plan the July 12 raid and ambush in which eight soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped.

MI warned Sharon

Israel had identified Hezbollah's efforts to improve its intelligence gathering before the outbreak of the war. The matter was raised with then prime minister Ariel Sharon by then Military Intelligence chief Major General Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash, who told Sharon that if Israel does not take the necessary countermeasures, the IDF and its activities will increasingly become transparent to Hezbollah intelligence.

The issue was also raised by field security officers at meetings of the IDF General Staff.

While Hezbollah has clearly made significant progress in the area of intelligence in general, its main achievements during the war were in tactical intelligence gathering.

The organization received training from Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers and manned observation posts along the border, in places such as Maroun al-Ras.

These observation posts were equipped with sophisticated and expensive gear, mostly Western in origin, and during the war, they reported on IDF movements, especially inside Israel. Hezbollah also tried to run agents inside Israel.

The group also operated listening posts, and it seems that it met with some success in this area.

For example, if a pager message were sent to reporters in northern Israel, informing them of an expected visit by the IDF chief of staff or the defense minister to a particular location, Hezbollah would most likely have intercepted this information. This would have been sufficient for it to order more intense rocket attacks against that particular area of the north.

Hezbollah also set up a center for the collection of publicly available information on Israel, such as news reports in the Israeli media. The center was also responsible for thoroughly analyzing this data and extracting information of tactical value regarding operational plans, morale in Israel and differing opinions within the country.

Israel has been doing this sort of intelligence gathering for many years. But it seems that Hezbollah has now become adept at this form of intelligence and analysis as well.