29 June 2002



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Lebanese Jew charged with spying for Hizbullah
MATTHEW GUTMAN Jun. 28, 2002

A Lebanese immigrant was indicted for espionage yesterday for providing Hizbullah with maps of Tel Aviv, pinpointing the locations of gas depots and electrical power stations, and forwarding classified information about IDF plans to a Hizbullah official.

The case came to light only a day after the disclosure of a possible breakthrough in the mediation efforts between Israel and Hizbullah for a prisoner swap that could include businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers kidnapped in October 2000.

The suspect, who court documents identified only as Nissim, 35, from Holon, is the son of a Shi'ite Muslim and a Jewish woman who immigrated from Lebanon in 1992. He is charged with contact with a foreign agent and intent to harm the security of the state.

The indictment, presented in Tel Aviv District Court, charges the suspect was in telephone contact with family members in Lebanon, including his brother. During one conversation about two years ago, the brother said a Hizbullah member was interested in speaking with Nissim. The brother then served as a liaison between the two.

According to the charge sheet, Nissim was asked to provide Hizbullah with various types of information, including maps of Tel Aviv with diagrams indicating the locations of gas depots and electric power stations, information regarding other sensitive installations, IDF troop movements, and policy regarding the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon.

The indictment comes amid heightened warnings of a mega-attack on sensitive sites, such as the Pi Glilot fuel and gas installation north of Tel Aviv, the target of a terror attack on May 23.
Nissim also allegedly had managed, at Hizbullah's request, to exploit his connection with a senior IDF officer, who ultimately provided him with information regarding the decision not to invade Gaza and to refrain from additional incursions into Lebanon.

About a month before his arrest, Nissim was allegedly able to glean from the IDF officer top secret plans for the assassination of terrorist leaders in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip, which he in turn passed on to his Hizbullah operator.

Days later the PFLP-CG leader Ahmed Jibril's son was assassinated in an apparent car bombing in Beirut. Nissim reportedly told his handlers the bombing was the Mossad's handiwork.

In addition to providing his Hizbullah handler maps of Tel Aviv and the locations of Israel Electric and gas company installations, Nissim photographed installations in the Haifa area and in other cities, though he was not actually asked to do so.

He was also asked to provide his handlers a photograph of a close family member who works in the defense establishment.

But Nissim did not work for free. Before his arrest, Nissim, who desperately needed money, had planned to meet his Hizbullah handlers in an undisclosed location abroad, for which he was to be compensated, a police report said. It was there that Nissim was to hand over the information regarding the installations.

Despite the fact that the Shin Bet and the police Serious and International Crime Unit managed to arrest Nissim before he set out for the rendezvous with his operator, he was able to burn most of the evidence against him prior to his arrest. According to the police, Nissim confessed to most of the charges.

Prosecutors are seeking to have him remanded through the end of his trial. Meanwhile, the court has placed a gag order on publication of the suspect's last name and certain details of the case.

The families of the MIAs wonder what effect the case, combined with the alleged breakthrough in mediation, will have on their efforts to retrieve their loved ones or their effects.

Defense sources dimmed hopes of a quick breakthrough in the mediation effort, saying that negotiating such exchanges can take many years. But a source close to the negotiations said Israel could use this case to increase pressure on Hizbullah.

In addition, according to reports, Israel gained another bargaining chip when a paratroop contingent encircling the Imara in Hebron arrested a senior Hizbullah member who was at first thought to be a member of Hamas.