In his fifth speech in less than three weeks, Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah tried to blame the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri on Israel. Nasrallah said at a Beirut news conference on Monday evening that Israel had masterminded the murder in order to get Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. He said he was prepared to hand over the proof to an independent inquiry.
This is an unusual effort by Nasrallah to convince the public. It stems from his fear that the International Court of Justice in The Hague will shortly publish a report accusing several high-ranking Hezbollah officials of complicity in the murder. Israel, he claimed, has the capability and desire to carry out such acts. "We remember instances when agents entered via the shore and various ports," he said.
He also showed a picture of an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle that was ostensibly documenting the surroundings of Hariri's home in a Beirut suburb and a number of central government institutions in the city. Nasrallah also displayed video clips which he claimed had been filmed by Israeli UAVs that kept an eye on the road leading to Hariri's brother's house in Sidon, as well as documentation of Israeli air movements near the Lebanese coast on the day of Hariri's assassination. An Israeli agent, Ghassan al-Jed, who was involved in another liquidation, was present at the scene of the assassination, Nasrallah claimed.
Turning to the 1997 Israeli naval commando disaster, he said that Hezbollah had several times intercepted in real-time pictures broadcast by an UAV to Israel that showed the area of the action. This indicated to the organization that Israel planned to take action there, and therefore Hezbollah set up ambushes there that attacked the commandos. Hezbollah waited for the commandos for several weeks there, he added.
This information is not new since it was published in Maariv in 2007 by Amir Rapaport. During the news conference, Nasrallah showed two video clips which he said were connected with the incident. The first was from before the incident - this was supposedly the one from which Hezbollah understood that Israel was planning action there - and the second purportedly showed Israeli fighters boarding a plane on the day of the 1977 naval commando raid. However, there was no documentation of the bombing or the raid itself.
Nasrallah added that since then Israel has learned to encrypt UAV broadcasts.
He also claimed that as early as 1993, Israel attempted to create friction between Hariri and Hezbollah, and to persuade Hariri and his supporters that Hezbollah was trying to assassinate him. In 1996, Nasrallah said, Hezbollah arrested an agent who was working for Israel, by the name of Ahmed Nasrallah. "There is no connection between us," he pointed out, referring to the name.
The agent made contact with Hariri's security forces and told them that he was close to the former head of Hezbollah's security forces, Imad Mughniyeh [who was likewise assassinated] and that he had solid information that Hezbollah was trying to murder him. Nasrallah said that in 2000 the "Israeli agent" was set free by Lebanese security forces controlled by Syria, and that he fled from Lebanon and now lives in Israel.
During the news conference, a film was broadcast that included newspaper clippings and declarations by Israeli journalists and senior officials, including Haaretz reporter Amos Harel, dealing with the Military Intelligence report that Hezbollah apparently wanted to liquidate Hariri.
The Lebanese press published supposed admissions from a Lebanese agent who had worked with Israel and admitted that he had been instructed to provide information about the residence of Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, including its exact distance from the shore, as well as the location of the private yacht belonging to the commander of the Lebanese army, General Jean Kahwaji.
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