Beirut steps up search for head of terror group tied to Mossad
By Karine Raad
Daily Star staff
BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces redoubled their efforts Monday to find Palestinian Hussein Khattab after Mahmoud Rafeh, the reported leader of a recently uncovered Mossad-linked terrorist network, confessed that Khattab was the actual leader of the group.
Judicial sources told The Daily Star that Rafeh admitted receiving a list of names of Lebanese and Palestinian political figures to be assassinated on orders from Israel.
The sources said Rafeh told the authorities Khattab also received the list, and was "leading" assassination operations.
During interrogation, Rafeh confessed to last month's murder of Islamic Jihad member Mahmoud Majzoub and his brother Nidal. He also claimed the murder of Hizbullah officials Ali Hassan Deeb and Ali Saleh on August 16, 1999 and August 2, 2003, respectively, and that of Jihad Jibril, the son of the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command leader Ahmad Jibril in May 20, 2002.
However, he denied any involvement in a string of assassinations in Beirut during 2005 and having any knowledge of who was behind the attacks.
Military Investigating Magistrate Adnan Bolbol is expected to begin questioning witnesses in July, the sources said.
The sources added that Khattab called his wife on June 9, and the call was being traced along with his possible escape route.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Fawzi Salloukh called on the international community to take a severe stand against Israel, which he accused of "exercising state terror."
Speaking from a conference in Azerbaijan, Salloukh said Lebanon was keen to protect its unity and resistance against "Israel's attempts to tamper with Lebanon's security and murder innocent citizens."
Hizbullah's deputy secretary general, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said: "The arrest of the Israeli network, which proves the infiltration of Israeli intelligence to Lebanon, highlights now more than ever the urgent need to preserve the Islamic resistance not just in Lebanon, but also along the border facing Israel, because its presence stops Israel from direct attacks."
The cracking of the Mossad-linked network also made headlines in Israel particularly after the Lebanese government promised to lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council.
The Debka Israeli Web site reported Friday that Rafeh confessed to being enlisted by the current Mossad director, Meir Dagan, in 1989.
The site described the "unusual functions of his network as a logistics-cum-information center, which laid the groundwork for Israeli operations against targeted terrorist operatives."
However, Debka contested some of Rafeh's confession.
"Lebanese agents were never informed of the targets, just ordered to leave the means of destruction at drop points for Israeli agents to pick up - and then make off," it said.
The Web site also reported that "two Israeli agents flew into Beirut International Airport aboard a commercial flight on false passports three days before" the Majzoub brothers were assassinated in Sidon on May 26.
"They are believed to have headed for Sidon and replaced a door of the Majzoub brothers' car with the booby-trapped facsimile," it said. "They are said to have flown out again after an Israeli plane over Sidon detonated the planted explosives with an electronic beam."
Debka said Israel and Mossad would face damning evidence from the Lebanese government during an upcoming Security Council session.
"In a complaint to be lodged with the UN Security Council, Lebanon will accuse Israel of acts of sabotage and violations of its territory. In addition to overflights, Israel will be charged with landing naval commandos on the Lebanese coast to deliver bomb-making materials, electronic and surveillance devices to ring members.
"Israel will no doubt deny all of the charges leveled by Lebanon when the issue comes up at the UN Security Council," the Web site said.