Arab Media: Top Officials to Be Arrested for Spying for Israel

Senior Lebanese government officials may be arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel, several Lebanese and pan-Arab newspapers reported yesterday.

Some reports on this "dramatic development" even said that Beirut prosecutors would seek to lift the immunity of some of the suspects, indicating that they may include members of parliament. However, no new arrests were reported as of last night.

The new developments appear to stem from the recent arrest of a senior official of the government's cellular communications provider, Alfa. Charbel Kazzi, 56, a Lebanese Christian, had worked at the company for 14 years, and in his last position was responsible for the network's transmission stations.

According to Lebanese reports, Kazzi's handlers provided him with chips that he installed in the transmission stations, thus effectively wiretapping the network. This allegedly allowed Israeli intelligence to receive extensive information on what was happening in Lebanese political and military circles, as well as to collect information on cell phone users and their whereabouts in real time.

The Lebanese media said that Lebanon's military intelligence branch launched a wide-ranging investigation of both Alfa and competitor MTC to try to discover further security breaches. Beirut officials were quoted in the reports as saying they were certain Kazzi did not act alone, and Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel quoted an intelligence official as saying that the investigation would continue until Israeli intelligence in Lebanon was deaf and blind.

The Lebanese media also reported yesterday that UNIFIL, the international peacekeeping force, had canceled its patrols of south Lebanon following severe clashes with local residents. The residents reportedly blocked roads and hurled rocks at UNIFIL's armored vehicles. Seven peacekeepers were reported injured, and UNIFIL property was damaged.