Egypt arrests 'Hezbollah agents'

About 50 people being questioned over belonging to Hezbollah and aiding Hamas.

    Egypt is sensitive to Hezbollah and Hamas' attempts to increase their regional influence [EPA]

    'Denied access'

    Montasser al-Zayat, the defendants' lawyer, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that he was notified of the arrests after receiving a phone call from the family of Hani Sami Shihab, one of the detainees, saying that he had been taken by security forces and that they were unaware of the charges.

    "I began to follow up the case in which seven of the 1948-Arabs [Palestinian Israelis] were arrested. Then information followed [of] Egyptian young men on charges of supporting members of Hezbollah to deliver aid and funds to Hamas and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," al-Zayat said.

    He added that the group included seven Palestinians and three Lebanese.

    Individuals who remained in Israeli territory after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and their offspring, who hold Israeli citizenship are sometimes referred to as 1948-Arabs.

    State of emergency

    Al-Zayat said that he had been denied access to the detainees and did not know the formal charges against them.

    "We've not been able to find out the official charges, but they revolve around supporting Hamas and Hezbollah," al-Zayat said.

    The Egyptian interior ministry has not commented on the arrests.

    If made official, it would also be the first time that individuals have been charged with belonging to Hezbollah, the Shia group that effectively controls parts of southern Lebanon and Beirut, the capital.

    Cairo is keen to appear unwilling to condone money or aid reaching Hamas, which is the de-facto ruler of the occupied Palestinian Gaza Strip which borders Egypt.

    Belonging to any external or regional organisation is considered a crime under Egyptian law, which is under a state of emergency - in place since 1981.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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