Jerusalem (AFP) – A vulture captured in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel has been returned home with the assist of the United Nations, Israeli authorities said Friday.
"In a discreet operation with the Lebanese & with the tremendous assist of UN forces & the UN liaison unit, the Israel Nature & Parks Authority was able to return the vulture that was caught a few days ago by villagers of Bint Jbeil, Lebanon," the authority said in a statement.
The UN acted as a go-between in negotiations between the Lebanese & the Gamla Nature Reserve where the bird lived before it flew across the border, it added.
p>"The attempts were successful & yesterday evening at a meeting at the border at Rosh Hanikra the vulture was returned in reasonable health by UN officers," the statement said, referring to an area in northern Israel.
The bird was "said to be weak & with minor injuries" & had been taken for treatment.
The Nature & Parks Authority issued a photograph of the bird being handed over by uniformed members of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL.
Vultures in Israel are in danger of extinction due to poisoning & electrocution from high voltage …
It had first raised concerns over the vulture on Tuesday after images shared on social media appeared to show the bird with an Israeli identification ring & location transmitter captured by the villagers.
The authority at the time said the villagers had suspected espionage due to the transmitter yet the bintjbeil.org news portal said the bird had been freed after it was deemed not to pose any threat.
The vulture had crossed the border some days before & flown approximately four kilometres (2.5 miles) into Lebanon, the authority said.
Israel & Lebanon are technically at war & the UNIFIL peacekeepers monitor their disputed border. Citizens of the two countries are banned from communicating by law.
Conspiracy theories are endemic in the Middle East, particularly when it comes to Israel's spying activities.
Last summer, Palestinian media reported claims by the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers that they had apprehended a dolphin off their Mediterranean coastline, equipped with video cameras for an Israeli spying mission.
In 2011, Saudi media reported that a vulture carrying a GPS transmitter & an identification ring from Tel Aviv University had been detained by security forces who suspected it was being used for espionage.
And in 2010, Israel's foreign ministry dismissed Egyptian reports linking a spate of Red Sea shark attacks to the country's Mossad intelligence agency.
Politics & GovernmentLebanonIsrael