Hezbollah, IDF, Lebanon, Israel, Espionage

Hezbollah goes low-tech in intelligence battle with Israel

Taking a page out of Hamas' book, Hezbollah has adopted old-school tactics to evade Israel's sophisticated surveillance.

Surveillance video camera (Photo: Shutterstock / CarlosBarquero)

In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, a new front has emerged: the battle of intelligence. According to a recent Reuters investigation, both sides are engaged in a high-stakes game of espionage and counter-espionage, with Hezbollah adopting old-school tactics to evade Israel's sophisticated surveillance.

The Lebanese militant group has reportedly banned its fighters from using mobile phones in frontline areas of southern Lebanon. This decision comes after nine months of near-constant skirmishes along the Israel-Lebanon border, with Israel successfully targeting and eliminating several high-ranking Hezbollah officials.

Sources familiar with Hezbollah's operations told Reuters that the organization has reverted to outdated communication methods, such as pagers and human messengers, to transmit information. This shift is a direct response to Israel's renowned cyber capabilities, which allow it to hack phones and computers for intelligence gathering.

Qassem Qassir, a Lebanese analyst with close ties to Hezbollah, explained the rationale behind this strategy: "We are dealing with a battle where information and technology are essential components. But when you're dealing with technological advancement, you need to go back to old methods - landlines, face-to-face communications - any method that allows you to bypass technology."

The effectiveness of such "low-tech" approaches against advanced espionage technologies is not without precedent. Security experts cited the case of Osama bin Laden, who managed to evade U.S. intelligence services for nearly a decade by eschewing internet and phone use, relying instead on human couriers.

However, this tactical shift comes with its own set of challenges. Emily Harding, a former CIA analyst now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted that while these countermeasures can make it difficult to locate targets, they also "can make Hezbollah's leadership communication with its forces less efficient."

Hezbollah's concerns extend beyond mobile phones. The organization suspects that Israel is also exploiting security cameras in border villages and towns. In response, Hezbollah has instructed residents to disconnect these cameras from the internet.

The militant group's paranoia seems to be rooted in recent events. On November 22, an Israeli airstrike killed five Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, including Abbas Raad, son of a prominent Hezbollah politician. Sources claim that prior to the attack, a caller posing as a local official contacted a woman in the targeted house, presumably to verify the absence of civilians.

This incident was part of a series of strikes that eliminated several senior Hezbollah commanders, as well as a high-ranking Hamas official in Beirut. The perceived vulnerability has led Hezbollah to implement strict measures. A senior official told Reuters, "Today, anyone caught with a phone on the front is expelled from Hezbollah," a claim corroborated by multiple sources.

The fear of surveillance has reportedly spread to Beirut, where even senior Hezbollah politicians avoid bringing mobile phones to meetings. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah himself warned in a February speech that mobile phones were "more dangerous than Israeli spies," urging operatives to destroy or secure their devices.

In addition to reverting to older technologies, Hezbollah is said to be utilizing a private landline network, allegedly established with Iranian funding about two decades ago. This network connects Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut to various towns and areas in the Beqaa Valley. However, sources claim that Hezbollah suspects Israel has breached this network and is now working to secure it by splitting it into smaller, more manageable segments.

While Hezbollah adapts its communication strategies, it continues to boast about its own intelligence-gathering capabilities. The organization recently released drone footage purportedly showing Israeli military installations, including electronic intelligence bases and Iron Dome batteries. Hezbollah claims to have shot down or captured six Israeli drones since the conflict began, though the Israeli military only confirms five such incidents.

The IDF, while acknowledging some drone losses, cautions against taking Hezbollah's statements at face value, suggesting that the group may be attempting to sow panic among the Israeli public.

As both sides continue to adapt and counter each other's moves, the situation remains tense – the constant threat of wider escalation looming over the region.

* Ynet contributed to this article.

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