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Arab Israeli accused of spying on army chief

Allegedly passed on information to Hezbollah

An Israeli Arab who belonged to the same health club as Israel's military chief was accused on Monday of passing information about him to Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Rawi Fuad Sultani, 23, admitted he met a Hezbollah activist in a summer camp in Morocco one year ago and told him he had information on Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, who worked out at the same gym as he did in the town of Kfar Saba.

The allegations raised more questions about security around Ashkenazi, two weeks after authorities disclosed that his credit card details and a gun in his office had been stolen by a soldier, now under arrest.

Sultani later met a second Hezbollah agent in Poland and gave him information about access to the health club and security arrangements for Ashkenazi there, the indictment said.

Father denies charges

Sultani was charged with a series of security offences, including conveying information to an enemy agent and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The suspect's father, Fouad Sultani, an attorney who represented him at Monday's hearing, denied the allegations.

He said his son was not involved in any plot to harm Ashkenazi and had carried on an innocent conversation with a fellow student at the summer camp "who in retrospect, according to the indictment, was a member of Hezbollah".

The lawyer confirmed that his son had belonged to the health club but told Israel Radio his membership expired a year ago.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006. Israeli security officials have cautioned that the group could attack Israelis to avenge the killing in Damascus last year of Hezbollah's military mastermind, Imad Moughniyeh.

"Hezbollah is continuing in its efforts to recruit Israelis to perpetrate terrorist missions," the Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement, adding that it "has sought to perpetrate revenge attacks against senior VIPs" Mugniyeh was killed in a February 2008 car bombing.

Israel has denied any involvement in Mughniyeh's death but senior officials have openly welcomed it.

Hezbollah is continuing in its efforts to recruit Israelis to perpetrate terrorist missions

Israeli statement