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10 Israeli Soldiers Arrested on Suspicions of Spying for Hezbollah - 2002-10-23


Ten soldiers in the Israeli army, all of them Bedouin Arabs, have been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. One of the 10 is a senior army officer.

Among those arrested is a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army. He is accused by Israel's secret police of providing sensitive information to the Hezbollah in exchange for money and drugs.

The police, known as the Shin Bet, say the information included intelligence about the army's movements along Israel's northern frontier with Lebanon.

The officer is also accused of identifying weak spots in the security fence that divides the two countries.

All 10 of those arrested are reported to be from a town in Israel's Galilee region, near the border with Lebanon.

In the past two years, there have been several cases of Israeli citizens caught spying for the Hezbollah, but security officials said this is the most serious one so far. It is believed to be the first time a senior army officer has been accused of cooperating with the militant Islamic group.

Based in Lebanon, the Iran-backed Hezbollah, or Party of God, is dedicated to Israel's destruction. More than two years after Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to threaten Israel.

Amnon Zichroni, a lawyer for the officer, says his client whose name and role in the army have been banned from publication, denies the allegations.

He says that the officer was arrested more than a month ago, along with the nine other suspects. No information was made available about the other detainees.

Mr. Zichroni says that an indictment is set to be filed against the officer next Monday in a military court.

In June, Israeli intelligence officers arrested an Israeli citizen of Lebanese descent on suspicion of also spying for the Hezbollah.

There are about 170,000 Bedouin in Israel. They are not conscripted into the Israeli army but are accepted as volunteers.

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