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Israeli spy cell held at Beirut Airport

Lebanese authorities on Friday announced the arrest at Beirut Airport of “a spy cell working for the Israeli enemy.” (Reuters/File Photo)
Lebanese authorities on Friday announced the arrest at Beirut Airport of “a spy cell working for the Israeli enemy.” (Reuters/File Photo)
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26 Aug 2023 12:08:07 GMT9
26 Aug 2023 12:08:07 GMT9
  • Security authority advises against citizens following Tel Aviv-based online accounts

Najia Houssari

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities on Friday announced the arrest at Beirut Airport of “a spy cell working for the Israeli enemy.”

The cell comprised two individuals attempting to leave Lebanon, said Brig. Gen. Elias Al-Baysari, acting director general of General Security.

He added: “These individuals have connections with the enemy and were tasked with missions inside the country.

“We have interrogated and handed them over to the competent military judiciary, and we will reveal the danger of this network in subsequent statements.”

General Security maintained its secrecy over the apprehended individuals, their nationalities, affiliations, and mission.

A security source said: “Investigations, shrouded in secrecy, are underway to uncover further individuals involved.”

Al-Baysari, speaking on the 78th anniversary of the establishment of the Lebanese General Security apparatus, said: “There is no room for compromising security under any circumstances.

“Preserving security is a red line and a priority for us. We have an excellent team that does not hesitate and spares no effort in maintaining security, combating terrorism, and pursuing networks working for the Israeli enemy.”

The security source added: “Lebanese security agencies are active in pursuing attempts to recruit agents for the Israeli enemy on Lebanese soil.”

General Security warned citizens of the “dangers of using applications randomly without knowing their source or location.”

The organization urged the population “not to follow online pages and unreliable accounts or download suspicious applications, especially those used to book travel tickets, notably the Momondo application, associated with an office located in Tel Aviv.”

In relation to fighting criminal activity, Al-Baysari said: “Security work and coordination with Arab and international entities have contributed to enhancing crime prevention.

“As a result, we have arrested one of the most dangerous figures in the Italian Mafia in a significant and distinguished effort to combat drug smuggling, and we handed him over to Italian authorities. This reflects trust in Lebanese security.”

He added: “The issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has been taken seriously by General Security since 2012.

“We requested data to regulate this presence based on accurate information, and insisted on obtaining it without conditions, as it is part of our sovereignty.

“General Security is responsible for the security of every foreign resident on its land, and we are entitled to do so.

“We conveyed our demands to the UN, and we were supported by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, and their team.

“Our efforts have culminated in securing our rights, and we are in the phase of obtaining the data.

“We affirm, on the other hand, that the data is confidential, and we will maintain its security in accordance with international treaties. It is a trust on our shoulders.”

Lisa Abou Khaled, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Beirut, previously spoke to Arab News regarding the issue of handing over data to the Lebanese authorities.

She said: “Our first and foremost goal is to protect the most vulnerable in the host community as well as refugees, and to ensure continued adherence to the principles of international law.

“In accordance with our protection mission, the UNHCR continues to engage in constructive proposals to address the situation of refugees in Lebanon and ensure their protection, including issues related to data sharing, registration and other important aspects.”

The UNHCR and Lebanese General Security have agreed to form a technical committee for data sharing and protection, which follows international standards.

Meanwhile, amid the worsening economic crisis that affects General Security personnel and other public sector employees, Wassim Mansouri, the acting governor of Lebanon’s central bank, said on Friday that “the government would pay public sector salaries for the month of August in US dollars, calculated using an exchange rate of 85,500 pounds per US dollar.”

He added: “This move will aid in stabilizing the exchange rate rather than exerting pressure on it.

“In simpler terms, dollars will be injected into the market to benefit 400,000 families, ensuring transparency and equity in distribution while enhancing social stability.

“An agreement has also been reached to meet the foreign currency needs of the army and security forces without impacting foreign currency reserves.”

However, Mansouri cautioned that “the monetary stability achieved by the central bank has its limitations in terms of time, and the political, economic, and security conditions related to it.”

He added: “The central bank alone cannot control monetary policy and maintain the stability of the local currency’s exchange rate without full cooperation of the government and parliament.”

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