Jerusalem – An Israeli non-commissioned officer (NCO) is suspected of having passed on information to Hezbollah as part of a drug deal. Two other residents of northern Israel were arrested along with the NCO on suspicion of smuggling heroin into Israel from Lebanon. A gag order on the fact of the arrest was lifted on Monday.
Israeli security officials said on Monday after the affair was publicized that “Hezbollah is trying to flood Israel with narcotics.”
The indictment against the two men who were known to the police – Abed Zouabi, age 30, of Nazareth, and Shir Hayib, aged 26, from the village Tuba Zangariya in the Upper Galilee – alleges that the two men forged a liaison with an undercover police agent known as Haj. Mr. Zouabi offered the police agent $2,500 in exchange for every pound of heroin that he would smuggle in from Lebanon.
Mr. Hayib gave the agent the money in dollars and an SIM card that allowed him to make contact with the Lebanese dealers. The two men met near the border and toured the area, in the course of which he provided information about where drugs could be safely smuggled into Israel. In exchange, the NCO was promised $20,000.
The affair was discovered in the course of routine work along the Lebanese border of the Galilee police. About a month ago the police learned from their undercover agent that there was an NCO who was involved in the drug smuggling operations and had provided Hezbollah with valuable information. The information that the police collected was turned over to the IDF, and the suspect was arrested. Following the arrest the network continued to operate. Two weeks ago the two others were arrested in the middle of a drug deal along the northern border. Two kilograms of heroin was discovered in Mr. Zouabi’s Mercedes.
The NCO is suspected of having passed on information about the numbers of IDF troops along the northern border, as well as information about the number of vehicles in the sector and specific information about the locations of IDF bases.
Israeli Security officials said that this was just part of Hezbollah’s war on Israel, saying that Hezbollah hoped to “poison” Israeli society by a plethora of means in addition to acts of terrorism. The arrest of the NCO on Monday is just the tip of the iceberg, with more developments expected.
Security officials said that in just the past number of months 50 pounds heroin had been seized. For comparison’s sake they note that in 2005, only a single pound of heroin was caught. The police have focused most of their intelligence efforts on the divided village Ghajar. The IDF has carried out a number of operations in the area of the village in conjunction with the Israel police. In some cases those operations devolved into exchanges of live fire.
Security officials said that the drug smugglers have been trying to find additional routes along the border fence, which is more than 100 kilometers long. Police said that the drug dealers had become far bolder in their activity along the border fence and were recently equipped with sophisticated night vision equipment, probably by Hezbollah.
In Hezbollah’s written combat doctrine, drug smuggling is referred to as the “indirect war.”
Hezbollah’s strategy has been well known to Israel for the past two decades. In the past the indirect war had another branch: Forgery of foreign currencies, mainly the U.S. dollar, in order to flood Israel and to purchase weaponry in the West. The forgery was relatively low-grade and ultimately died out. The drugs, conversely, are a stable and ancient tradition in the region and has been a source of livelihood for a number of clans in the area for hundreds of years.
Nasrallah: Let The Israelis Keep On Being Afraid
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced on Monday that his organization was not interested in starting another war with Israel. In a speech he gave to mark the 40th day of mourning after the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, the commander of the organization’s military wing, Mr. Nasrallah revealed that talks for a prisoner exchange deal have continued to take place even recently.
“Even though the Israelis killed Imad, we will continue this process, and we have not stopped the negotiations,” Mr. Nasrallah said. “Even recently, meetings have been held. We want to fulfill one of the beliefs of the martyr Mughniyeh: To see our captive brothers alive among their dear ones and their people.”
The Hezbollah leader gave his speech, which lasted 55 minutes, via video from his hiding place. Thousands of the movement’s supporters gathered in an enormous tent in southern Beirut, cheering from time to time. Mr. Nasrallah appeared self-confident and sometimes smiled, particularly when he called former Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz “that man, what’s his name, with the closed binoculars.”
Mr. Nasrallah mentioned his organization’s response to Mr. Mughniyeh’s assassination, saying, “Those who murdered the martyr and leader Mughniyeh should be punished and should be given the taste of punishment. It is not that we are a vindictive nation, but we are a believing nation. In order to preserve those who remain alive, the murderers must be punished. They will be punished, God willing. We will choose the time, the place and the punishment, its methods and its means.”
Mr. Nasrallah also boasted that his organization’s threats of retaliation had succeeded in terrifying the Israelis. “The Zionist Israelis, I say to them, after the martyr’s death of Haj Imad, they are worried and afraid and gripped by terror, not only in Palestine but also throughout the world. Let them be afraid. Let them taste the taste of worry, fear and terror, which they still impose upon our nation and our people. Why should anyone be interested in having tranquility fall upon them?”
Hezbollah Discussed On Capitol Hill
While Israel worries about revenge attacks by Hezbollah and its gaining strength in Lebanon, the transcript of a discussion in the U.S. Congress reveals a much more serious problem: The Lebanese terrorist organization is sending branches throughout the world and has succeeded in creating a strong economic infrastructure for itself.
The title of the discussion in the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs was “Hezbollah’s Global Accomplishments,” and high-ranking officials of the State Department and the FBI. The meeting opened with a quote from Hezbollah’s leader that “‘Death to the United States’ is not just a slogan. For us, ‘Death to the United States’ is a policy, a strategy and a vision.”
The main part of the discussion focused on Hezbollah’s global ability and the use of companies and centers of influence in various countries throughout the world. Frank Urbancic, a high-ranking expert on terrorism from the State Department, spoke about Hezbollah focal points worldwide, emphasizing the South American triangle – Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay – where “many Hezbollah supporters are concentrated who deal in arms smuggling, drugs, money laundering and even the theft of intellectual property.” Afterward, Mr. Urbancic concentrated on Hezbollah activity in central Africa. “Shiite Muslim communities who support Hezbollah control the import of basic products to the area,” he said. “Another example is the activity in Sierra Leone, where Hezbollah supporters deal in diamonds.”
Mr. Urbancic told the committee members, “Hezbollah has assets throughout the world that can be activated at any moment for terrorism purposes. It is important to note that in the border regions of these countries there is no significant enforcement that will prevent smuggling, which makes prevention difficult.
“Efforts are being made to prevent and track Hezbollah’s financial activity,” Mr. Urbancic added. “We are trying to track and also to prevent financial transfers to Hezbollah, including from Iran. Western and central Africa are defined as power centers in Hezbollah’s financial network, and it is very difficult to get our hands on the diamond trade in that area. For us this is a real and long-term threat.”
John Cavanagh, a high-ranking FBI official who in 2006 was in charge of the international terrorism desk and today commands the FBI base in Omaha, Neb., raised the fear of infiltration into the U.S. via Mexico. He also said that the FBI succeeded in arresting a Hezbollah operative who infiltrated into the U.S. who is the brother of a high-ranking Hezbollah commander, but Mr. Cavanagh would not give details about him. He added that in 2006, his people arrested 58 Hezbollah operatives in Detroit against whom 107 indictments were handed down and whose assets, worth $5 million, were confiscated. He said that Hezbollah has established a presence in Venezuela and that its connections with that government are becoming stronger and more worrisome.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008