BEIRUT – In separate sweeps in Lebanon, authorities detained a Lebanese army colonel and two Palestinians living in the country's south on suspicion of spying for Israel, security officials said Tuesday.
The detentions were the latest in a recent series of arrests in Lebanon of people suspected to be working for the country's archenemy.
Lebanon considers itself at war with Israel, and spying for or collaborating with the Jewish state can be punishable by death. Authorities have recently intensified a campaign against alleged Israeli spies, arresting more than 15 people, mostly Lebanese or Palestinians living in the country.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the colonel — a commando officer — was arrested last week. They gave no further details.
Separately, security officials in the southern city of Sidon said two Palestinians were detained Tuesday on suspicion of spying for Israel. The officials said the two live in the Palestinian refugee camps of Ein el-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh near Sidon.
Also Tuesday, state-run National News Agency said military prosecutor Saqr Saqr charged three people with collaborating with Israel, raising the number of suspected spies who have been charged to 15. The report said that some of those charged are still at large.
The crackdown against suspected spies began in April, according to Lebanese security forces. It remains unclear how the authorities managed to break up the alleged espionage rings, but police have displayed sophisticated spying devices they say were seized from those arrested.
There have also been spectacular cross-border escapes.
Two Lebanese men suspected of spying for Israel fled across the border to the Jewish state on May 18. And two weeks earlier, a man wanted by authorities for spying for Israel escaped in a similar manner.
Israel has not made any comments about Lebanon's anti-spying campaign.
Last week, Israel's top foe in Lebanon and leader of the militant Hezbollah group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, demanded that the death penalty be carried out against those found guilty of spying for Israel.