Shin Bet Arrests Israeli Arab Man for Hezbollah Ties

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An Israeli Arab man was indicted Wednesday for giving information to the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, according to Israel's Shin Bet security service and court documents.

Hezbollah operatives contacted the man while he was studying medicine in Germany and paid him a total of euro13,000 ($20,170), according to a statement from the Shin Bet. It identified him as Khaled Kashkush, born in 1979, from the town of Kalanswa in central Israel.

Kashkush was arrested July 16 upon landing at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport. A gag order banning coverage of the case was lifted when the indictment was filed in a court in central Israel.

The indictment accuses him of contact with a foreign agent and passing information to the enemy. It lists five prosecution witnesses, four of them Israeli intelligence agents identified by their code names.

According to the indictment, Kashkush, who studied in the town of Goettingen, was first approached by a doctor who heads a German-Lebanese charity that the charge sheet said funneled money to Hezbollah-linked causes. The doctor, Hisham Hassan, eventually passed him on to a Hezbollah handler. Kashkush met in person with the handler several times in Erfurt and Frankfurt and received sums of money.

Ahmad Hoteit, a representative of Hassan's charity, Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon e.V, declined to respond to the allegations and said Hassan could not immediately be reached.

The Shin Bet gave the Hezbollah handler's name as Mohammed Hashem and released a photograph of a man it said was him.

According to the indictment, Kashkush gave Hashem man information about other Israeli Arabs who could potentially be recruited, about the layout of his hometown and about an internship he did at an Israeli hospital. He was also given a briefing on how to avoid detection by Israeli authorities.

Kashkush's lawyer, Amnon Zichroni, said his client had caused no real harm to Israel.

"I look at the indictment that was issued as a rather minor indictment, because it doesn't indicate he caused any damage to state security," Zichroni told Israel Radio.

The Shin Bet statement said the fact Hezbollah had not been outlawed in Europe "allows the organization to act without hindrance to recruit and run agents, while using supposedly legitimate platforms like foundations and charities."

Hezbollah is not banned in Germany but is under observation by the country's domestic intelligence agency. A spokeswoman for the state branch of the agency responsible for Goettingen said it had no immediate comment.

Hezbollah, which has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s, has broad support among Lebanon's Shiite population. Israel and the U.S. consider it a terrorist organization and accuse it of being behind deadly attacks in Lebanon and abroad.

Israel believes Hezbollah has an entire branch dedicated to drafting spies in Israel, particularly among its Arab citizens, who make up some 20 percent of Israel's population. Several Israeli Arabs have been arrested in recent years for ties to the group, including an army colonel who was convicted of espionage for passing information to the group.

An Israeli Arab lawmaker fled the country last year rather than face charges of having ties to Hezbollah.