JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel charged a Swede of Palestinian descent on Sunday with spying for Hezbollah, saying the Lebanese guerrilla group had tasked him with gathering information on Israeli military facilities that might be attacked in a future war.
The suspect, Khalil Hizran, was arrested on July 21 after flying into Tel Aviv, and confessed under interrogation to working for Hezbollah, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said after a gag order on the case was lifted.
According to a Shin Bet statement, Hizran planned to gather information on military sites in Israel, a mission it deemed “proof that Hezbollah is preparing for the next war with Israel and is marking out a ‘target bank’”.
Hizran’s Israeli lawyer, Leah Tsemel, denied the charges.
Speaking to Reuters, she said Hizran had met with Hezbollah members during visits to Lebanon, where he was born to Palestinian refugees and from which he had emigrated to Sweden.
“But he refused any request to harm Israel’s security,” Tsemel said. Hizran made a previous visit to Israel in 2009.
Hezbollah fought Israel to a standstill in the 2006 Lebanon war. Neither side appears eager to come to blows again but tensions remain high. Israel worries that Hezbollah has improved its rocket arsenal and other capabilities while helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battle a four-year-old insurgency.
Hizran was indicted on three criminal counts. Officials at the Swedish embassy in Israel, and with Hezbollah in Lebanon, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich