Hezbollah operative describes inner workings

LIMASSOL, Cyprus — A Hezbollah operative who worked as a courier for the group in Europe said at his trial Thursday that he had instructions to record the arrival times of passenger flights from Israel to Cyprus, prompting Israel to press the European Union to formally declare the militant group a terrorist organization.

During a cross-examination, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub described himself as ‘‘an active member of Hezbollah’’ with the code name ‘‘Wael,’’ and said he had received a salary of $600 a month since 2010. Asked why he had a code name, he answered through an interpreter, ‘‘In general, the party is based on secrecy between members. We don’t know the real names of our fellow members.’’

Yaacoub said his handler, a shadowy figure known only as Ayman, told him to track the landing times for an Arkia Israel Airlines flight between Tel Aviv and Larnaca, Cyprus. Ayman also asked him to look into the rental prices of warehouses, he said.


Yaacoub, 24, who holds Lebanese and Swedish passports, described himself as a pawn, following orders but not involved — or at least not knowingly involved — in planning an attack. But prosecutors say that is exactly what he was doing. Intelligence experts in the United States and Israel say Yaacoub was one small player in the covert war that has pitted Israel against Iran and the militant group.

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Yaacoub’s testimony has provided an unusual look inside the operations of the secretive group. On Thursday, Yaacoub described the weapons training he had received as a member of the group.

But he has denied taking part in a plot to kill Israeli citizens in Cyprus, in an attack similar to the bombing of a bus in Bulgaria last summer that the government there has blamed on Hezbollah.

On the stand, Yaacoub said that Hezbollah fund-raising was used for schools and hospitals. He said the group had its own ‘‘popular resistance army’’ separate from the Lebanese army.