Israeli actress Gal Gadot was depicted as the “Mossad Agent” who turned Lebanese actor and director Ziad Itani into an Israeli spy in a story published Monday by the Lebanese daily newspaper Al Liwaa.
Gadot’s photo was displayed on the paper’s front page with the caption: “The officer of the Israeli Mossad, Collette Vianfi, who recruited Ziad Itani.”
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Other Lebanese news websites questioned the authenticity of the picture published by the newspaper, with some claiming they made a mistake as Gadot was not the “Mossad agent” Itani was accused of cooperating with.
Lebanon’s security services revealed Friday night that Itani was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of spying for Israel.
He is suspected of following a series of senior political figures in Lebanon and trying to get close to their aides in an effort to obtain information about their movements.
He also stands accused of providing information to his Israeli handlers about two senior, well-known political figures in Lebanon—Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and former defense minister Abdul Rahim Mrad.
His Israeli handlers allegedly asked him to provide them with information on the reactions on the Lebanese street to the unexpected resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.
Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, reported on Saturday that Itani’s involvement with Israel began when he was contacted on Facebook in 2014 by an “attractive woman,” 30 years old with black hair, white skin and green eyes, who introduced herself as “Collette Vianfi.”
The two reportedly exchanged messages, with Itani believing the woman to be Swedish. Their Facebook relationship continued until 2015, when Itani gave the woman his phone number and email address.
At first, according to Al Akhbar, the two talked mostly about the economic situation in Lebanon and in the world, but their topics of conversation soon changed.
In early 2016, the “Swedish woman,” who according to Al Akhbar was an Israeli intelligence officer, managed to recruit Itani to work for her. Security officials quoted by the paper claimed he knew at that point she was Israeli, as she revealed her true identity to him.
Itani reportedly met with his Israeli handler face-to-face for the first time in Turkey in August 2016.
“Collette” reportedly asked the actor to work to make himself an influential public figure and make special connections. Among other things, he was told to look after his appearance so he could blend into certain crowds, where he could cultivate his connections. To that end, he was sent a monthly sum of $500-$1,000.
The Israeli handler also reportedly asked Itani about the security situation in southern Lebanon and in the Palestinian refugee camps in the country, and asked questions to ascertain whether Hariri’s resignation was genuine or merely a political ploy.
Their last contact was recently, when the Israeli handler told Itani she intends to visit Lebanon on December 2 of this year and even booked a hotel room. Itani tried to postpone the meeting, but “Collette” insisted and said she will be joined by someone who could help train him.