Israel arrested countless Palestinians for 'no reason' during Lebanon war, ex-top Shin Bet agent says
Israel's security service Shin Bet would arrest Palestinians in Lebanon during the Lebanon War in the 1980s "for no reason", a former senior member of the agency has told Haaretz.
Haim Rubovitch, formerly the third-most senior member of Shin Bet, made the admission in a series of conversations with the Israeli news outlet published earlier this week.
Rubovitch was a case officer at the time of the war, in charge of the Rashidiya refugee camp - one of the largest Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon at the time.
"We made arrests in crazy numbers. We filled the Ansar detention camp to capacity," Rubovitch said.
"Throw a stone and you would hit a wanted person. We arrested countless people for no reason,” he said.
The Lebanon war began when Israel invaded southern Lebanon in 1982 as part of its war with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).
The war lasted three years, and included the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, conducted by the Lebanese Phalangist militia and aided by Israeli forces.
"The truth is that the only way to survive in Lebanon in those years was for someone to join an armed militia," Rubovitch said of the situation for Palestinians at refugee camps.
Israel made a "mistake" when it did not ally itself with Lebanese figures linked to Amal, then the biggest and most influential Shia militia in Lebanon, he said.
Hezbollah, now the biggest Lebanese militia and bitter enemy of Israel, was founded in 1982.
Rubovitch said left the agency in 2005 because he had grown tired of the security sector, and had progressed as far up the chain of command as he possibly could have.
On recent events, Rubovitch said "a line was crossed" when the Israeli government last year allowed Shin Bet to use mobile phone tracing to curb the spread of the Covid-19 variant.
Shin Bet used the same technology to track down Palestinians amid unrest over Israeli incursions on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Text messages were sent to Palestinians, warning: "We will hold you accountable".