Syrian Hezbollah Agent Indicted for Spying, Terrorism After Capture in Israel

Syrian Hezbollah Agent Indicted for Spying, Terrorism After Capture in Israel

Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Syrian Hezbollah Agent Indicted for Spying, Terrorism After Capture in Israel 

A Syrian Hezbollah agent was indicted for espionage and terrorism, the Attorney General’s Office announced, after the suspect was caught in an IDF ambush when he infiltrated Israeli territory on January 27. According to the indictment, Ghaith Al-Abdullah and another man, Abed al-Rahman – Al-Abdullah’s brother-in-law – were recruited and paid to observe and report on troop strength, vehicle types and amount, operational hours, and routes of IDF forces by a Hezbollah operative who initially posed as a Syrian state security officer.  

The duo would spy on IDF forces along the fence and meet with their handler bimonthly for reports and payment. According to the announcement, Rahman was killed in an explosion in May 2022, which Hezbollah claimed was caused by an Israeli missile assassination. Rahman’s widow and family continued to receive a salary of 180,000 Syrian pounds, the same as Abdullah’s wages. The handler also gave Abdullah 4.5 million pounds to give to the widow, who was also his sister. The Attorney General’s Office indicated that such rewards beyond death for service were intentionally made obvious to Abdullah.  

Abdullah continued to spy on IDF activities from Syrian territory even after his partner’s death, using a new camera to document the Israelis. The attorney general said that during these operations, Abdullah was fully cognizant that the information would be used to harm Israel. 

In January, the suspect entered Israel, though the announcement didn’t elaborate on the operational reason. 

UAE Canceled Netanyahu Visit to Avoid Tensions with Iran 

Barak Ravid reported in Axios and Walla! News this week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United Arab Emirates was postponed in early January because of Emirati concerns that it would cause regional tensions with Iran, according to three Israeli officials with direct knowledge of the issue.

It was the fifth time that an official trip by Netanyahu to the UAE has been canceled or postponed. He was scheduled to travel to the Gulf country the last time he was prime minister to celebrate the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and the UAE. But those trips were also canceled. When Netanyahu assumed office again last year, he said his first foreign trip would be to the UAE. In late December, the Prime Minister's Office began briefing reporters about Netanyahu's trip to the UAE, which was being planned for the second week of January.  

But on January 3, several hours after far-right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s office said the visit was postponed. Netanyahu’s aides said at the time that the postponement had to do with logistical issues and wasn’t connected to the heightened tensions and condemnation, especially by Arab countries, of Ben-Gvir’s visit.  

The reason for the postponement wasn’t logistics as they claimed, according to the three Israeli sources who were directly involved in the planning of the trip. The Emiratis wanted the visit to focus on celebrating the Abraham Accords and the countries' bilateral relationship, the three Israeli said. But Netanyahu wanted to use the visit as a public signal to Iran, the officials said. 

According to the Israeli officials, the Emiratis were concerned Netanyahu would give public statements against Iran while on their soil. They didn’t want the visit to increase tensions with Iran and decided to postpone it, the officials said. 

Lebanon and Hezbollah 

Key Hezbollah Financier Arrested in Bucharest 

A Lebanese and Belgian citizen considered a key financier of the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah was arrested last Friday in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, federal authorities said. Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, 58, who was labeled a “global terrorist” by the United States in 2018 when $10 million was offered for information about his whereabouts, has funneled millions of dollars to Lebanon’s Hezbollah over the years, authorities said. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn said the extradition of Bazzi and Lebanese citizen Talal Chahine, 78, was sought on charges contained in an indictment returned last month in Brooklyn federal court.  

“Mohammad Bazzi thought that he could secretly move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the United States to Lebanon without detection by law enforcement,” Peace said in a release. “Today’s arrest proves that Bazzi was wrong.” Charges leveled against Bazzi and Chahine included conspiracy to cause U.S. individuals to conduct unlawful transactions with a global terrorist and money laundering conspiracy. It was unclear who will represent the men when they arrive in the United States.

Authorities said Bazzi and Chahine conspired to force or induce an individual in the U.S. to liquidate their interests in some real estate assets in Michigan and covertly transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds out of the U.S. to Bazzi and Chahine in Lebanon. The men were caught on recorded conversations proposing numerous ways to conceal from U.S. law enforcement officials that Bazzi was the source and destination of the proceeds of the sale and that the men were involved, authorities said.

Death of Hezbollah Commanders 

Iran’s Resistance Axis media reported that Haj Asad Saghir, a Hezbollah commander, died of cancer in Beirut. He held intelligence and military roles and served in Syria. Separately, another Hezbollah officer Ali Yahya al-Zayin died in recent days while performing “jihad.” Such deaths coincide with a major Israeli strike near Damascus as well as fighting in Aleppo, although it is not clear whether the deaths are connected to these operations.  


Israel Threatens to Strike Hezbollah in Southern Syria 

Israeli planes dropped leaflets in areas in the governorates of Quneitra and Daraa, southern Syria, warning the Syrian army against the consequences of sheltering Hezbollah members. 

The leaflets read: “We will not accept the continued presence of Hezbollah at the Tel Al-Hara military base, and the continuation of cooperation in any way…Hezbollah continues to extend its arms in the region and its presence brings disaster and destruction…You will be the first to be harmed.”