Israel remotely detonated a spying device planted in south Lebanon, killing a member of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and wounding several others in the explosion, Lebanese media reported on Friday. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said Hassan Ali Haidar was killed after army intelligence spotted a “strange device” in the village of Adloun, near Tyre. An unmanned drone remotely detonated the device following its discovery, according to the report, killing Haidar.
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The device reportedly looked like a rock, and was placed in the midst of vineyards and orchards on a high hill overlooking Tyre and Sidon. The report suggested that the device had been in place for two years, and was used to tap into Hezbollah telecommunication networks. Despite the lack of Hebrew characters on the device, it aroused the suspicions of Hezbollah patrols in the area, who then decided to dismantle it. The drone detonated the device as Ali Haidar approached. Reportedly, the drone remained in the area for hours after the detonation.
The Lebanese army confirmed the incident, but said the dead man was a civilian. The army surrounded the site following the explosion and scoured the area for additional devices. One report suggested that another device was located and dismantled.
The Israeli military declined to comment. However, Lebanese and UN officials have accused Israel in the past of detonating similar surveillance devices planted in south Lebanon. In December 2010, the Lebanese army claimed that it uncovered an espionage system that included two cameras, a transmission system and a system for recording signals, located in a mountainous area near Beirut.
This was the third such instance that year – the first two involved systems monitoring independent Hezbollah telecommunications. In all three cases, the Lebanese army acted after receiving intelligence on the cameras and listening devices from Hezbollah. Lebanese officials say Israel regularly recruits spies in Lebanon and has penetrated the nation’s telecommunications networks. Israel does not comment on such allegations. The alleged placement and operation of espionage devices so deep into Lebanese territory attests to complex and sophisticated measures utilized by Israel. Placing them within Lebanon requires agents or special units, as well as the capability for remotely operating the devices for extended periods.
In October 2009, the UN related a Lebanese request to Israel regarding clarifications on Israeli listening devices, which Lebanon claimed were discovered near the village of Hula in southern Lebanon. Israel did not confirm or deny the charge, but insisted to the UN that gathering intelligence in the area will continue as long as the Lebanese government is not in full control.
The latest incident did not receive wide media coverage in Lebanon since the Islamic State threat is the main concern in Lebanon today, rather than Israel. Its fighters are closing in on Lebanon’s northern and eastern borders with Syria, and the Lebanese army has failed to expel them from the border town of Arsal, where soldiers and civilians are currently held hostage.