The admission from Hezbollah’s deputy chief was startling. The group, he said over the weekend, is “battling espionage within its ranks” and has uncovered “some major infiltrations.”
To analysts and even some Hezbollah loyalists, the remarks were immediately taken as confirmation of long-swirling reports that a senior operative had been caught spying for Israel, disrupting a series of assassination plots abroad.
The accounts in the Lebanese and Arab news media, relying on unnamed sources, identify the mole as Mohammad Shawraba, the man charged with exacting revenge for Israel’s assassination of a top operative, Imad Mughniyeh, in 2008. They say Mr. Shawraba fed information to Israel that foiled five planned retaliation attempts.
The Hezbollah official, Naim Qassem, who is often called upon to handle difficult issues, made no mention of the specific allegations. In his remarks on Al-Nour, a Hezbollah-affiliated radio station, he added that Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful militant organization and political party, was able to contain any damage from espionage.
This is not the first time that Hezbollah has admitted to spies within its ranks. But this breach, if confirmed, comes at a time when the party has grown from a tight, exclusive cell focused on fighting Israel to a much larger operation that has significantly expanded its mission, sending thousands of its Shiite fighters to Syria to prevent the overthrow of its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, by Sunni insurgents.
That, in turn, has angered Lebanese Sunnis, who call Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria an abuse of the national consensus that supports the group’s keeping an independent militia only for fighting Israel, known here as resistance.