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Lebanon says Israeli 'agent' arrested over attack on Hamas official

Detained man 'carried out surveillance' ahead of failed suspected assassination attempt against Mohammed Hamdan last January
Lebanese security forces undertake a raid in Beirut (AFP/file pic)

Lebanon's army said on Tuesday it has arrested a suspected agent of Israel's spy agency Mossad over a failed bid to assassinate a Hamas official in the south of the country a year ago.

Mohammed Hamdan, a security official with the Lebanese branch of the Palestinian movement, was wounded in the leg in a car bomb blast in the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon.

Lebanon and Hamas blamed Israel for the attack, and days after the 14 January 2018 blast, Beirut authorities said they had arrested a man suspected of involvement in the car bombing.

A statement at the time said he was "one of the main perpetrators of the crime, who confessed to being tasked by Israeli intelligence".

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On Tuesday, the Lebanese army said in a statement a second male suspect "who carried out surveillance" before last year's bombing had also been arrested.

The second suspect "has admitted to being a Mossad agent since 2014," it said, without specifying his nationality.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in the past decade and is based in Gaza, but it operates a branch in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region

Lebanon is also home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees, many of whom live in 12 camps across the country, the largest being Ain al-Hilweh near Sidon.

Israeli jets regularly fly over Lebanon, sometimes drawing fire from anti-aircraft weapons belonging to the Hezbollah organisation.

Cross-border 'attack tunnels'

Lebanon and Israel are separated by the "blue line," a demarcation drawn by the UN to verify Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

Incursions across the heavily guarded frontier are rare.

In 2014, a Palestinian citizen of Israel said to be suffering from psychiatric issues crossed into Lebanon before being repatriated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Israeli military occasionally arrests shepherds around the disputed Shebaa Farms area.

Apart from a few incidents, the border has remained calm since a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, which killed 1,200 in Lebanon and 160 in Israel.

Israel is currently building a wall along the 130km frontier to block what it says are Hezbollah attempts to infiltrate.

Earlier this month, Israel said it had uncovered a number of cross-border attack tunnels it says were dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon.