Turkish authorities handed over to Lebanon on Tuesday a suspect involved in the failed assassination attempt against prominent Hamas official Mohammed Hamdan in the southern city of Sidon.
Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau was handed the suspect, Lebanese Mohammed Youssf al-Hajjar, at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, reported the National News Agency.
Hamdan escaped the assassination attempt that took place in Sidon on January 14. The perpetrators were tasked by the Israeli Mossad intelligence service to assassinate the figure. A second suspect remains at large.
Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that a Turkish security delegation had escorted Hajjar from Istanbul, where he was arrested, and he was transported back to Lebanon where he was detained by the Intelligence Bureau and General Security officers at Beirut’s airport.
The arrest in Turkey was possible after the Lebanese authorities had provided their Turkish counterparts with the details of Hajjar’s flight departure time from Beirut to Istanbul. He was detained within hours.
Lebanon’s Mustaqbal Movement sources said that Turkey’s quick action to turn over the suspect to Lebanon has eased political and security concerns in the country. The development will be on the agenda of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s trip to Ankara next week.
The ISF Intelligence Bureau was able to uncover the identities of the suspects in the Sidon bombing by monitoring their telephone activity and through surveillance cameras that are installed at the bombing site and its surroundings.
They were able to identify Lebanese Ahmed Beitieh as the main suspect in the crime. Beitieh, 38, hails from the northern city of Tripoli and has no prior criminal record. He works in the trade industry and frequently travels to the Netherlands.
Investigations said that Beitieh and his accomplices had planted an explosive in Hamdan’s vehicle, which parked in Sidon, hours before carrying out their attack. They had used two vehicles in their operation, both of which have been seized by security authorities.
Beitieh left Lebanon for Amsterdam on the same day as the failed assassination attempt. It is likely that he was recruited by Israeli intelligence while he was abroad.
Later on Tuesday, the State Security General Directorate warned Lebanese social media users against contacting Israelis “under any pretext in order to avoid their recruitment as enemy agents.”