Did U.S. Help Lebanon Crack Alleged Israeli Spy Rings?

U.S. has given $1 billion since 2006, including $410 million in security assistance to the military, police.

Lebanon arrested five people over the weekend suspected of belonging to an intelligence cell transmitting information about Hezbollah to Israel, the most recent arrests in a two-month crackdown apparently aided by American training and equipment.

Al Jazeera TV broadcast images on Sunday of a small table containing hidden communication devices, a modem concealing transmission equipment and forged passports - all allegedly used by the suspects.

Hezbollah-controlled Al-Manar television reported that the suspects' job was to collect information on potential targets such as the group's installations and the homes of its leaders.

The suspects are among 17 people allegedly belonging to six espionage cells who have been arrested in Lebanon in the past two months on suspicion of transmitting intelligence information to Israel.

It is unclear, however, if the cells are connected. Lebanese security sources indicated that the coming days might see the arrest of other suspected intelligence agents working for Israel.

The sources attribute the recent arrests to improved cooperation between Lebanon's many security agencies, saying that with the help of better-trained personnel and access to more sophisticated equipment, the Internal Security Forces have been intensifying their efforts to uncover espionage networks as part of an attempt to develop a pan-Lebanese image.

The Internal Security Forces have long been accused of representing the interests of Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, son of slain prime minister Rafik Hariri, and his supporters.

"This organization is seen as a more reliable one than the army, which still appears to be close to Syria and Hezbollah," one of the sources said.

The United States has provided $1 billion in aid since 2006, including $410 million in security assistance to the Lebanese military and police. But U.S. officials have said they would review aid to Lebanon depending on the results of the June 7 election, which could oust the U.S.-backed government.

Israel has expressed reservations about American aid to the Lebanese army and security services, saying those organizations will ultimately be unable to contend with Hezbollah and that any aid is liable to serve Hezbollah's interests.