Israel says it will continue to listen-in on Hezbollah communication

Published 28 October 2009

Hezbollah has its own communication network in Lebanon, separate and independent from the government’s sanctioned carrier networks; Israel says that bugging the organization’s network does not amount to a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty

Hezbollah, with the military and financial aid of Iran, has long been a state-within-a-state in Lebanon. On the more benign side, it runs its own independent (independent from the state of Lebanon, that is) welfare, construction, and education networks, catering to the needs of the Shi’a community. On the less benign side, it has its own foreign and defense policies, using Lebanese territory to advance its own and Iran’s strategic goals.

One of the important elements of Hezbollah’s independence from the central government in Beirut (if “central government” is the appropriate term for this fractured and divided country) is the organization’s communication network. With the help of Iranian electronic engineers, the group has built an expansive network that stretches across Beirut and through the Bekaa Valley to the south along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Israel is in the habit of eavesdropping on Hezbollah’s communication, and the other day Israeli military officials told UN peacekeepers in Lebanon they would continue monitoring the country as long as Hezbollah poses a threat. Security officials with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon responded to reports of Israeli listening devices planted on Hezbollah communications equipment in the south of the country.

UPI reports that UN authorities claimed the devices appeared to be remnants of the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. Lebanese officials said they were more recent, however.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz cites a “Western diplomat” saying that Israeli Brig. Yossi Hayman did not deny the use of surveillance equipment, adding his country would continue to protect itself from the threat posed by Hezbollah. “Israel will continue to use all means necessary to defend its citizens,” he said.

Border tensions between Lebanon and Israel intensified during the summer. Israel complained of renewed threats from Hezbollah while Lebanon pointed to repeated violations of its sovereignty.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which helped broker a cease-fire to the 2006 conflict, calls on Israel to respect Lebanese sovereignty while demanding that Hezbollah disarm.

Hayman said Israel does not consider the use of surveillance equipment a violation of its international obligations, however. “In view of all this we do not consider this instance (of listening devices) as an Israeli violation of Resolution 1701,” he said.