Report: Hariri tribunal to link top Hezbollah figures to assassination
Israeli security sources believe that the special tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has hard evidence on the involvement of senior Hezbollah figures in the murder. However, the sources say that contrary to the the popular assessment during the two years following the assassination, it appears that the Special Tribunal on Lebanon has no solid evidence linking Syria to the killing.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the international tribunal will link two of the six central figures in Hezbollah to the assassination. One of the figures the tribunal will point to is Imad Mughniyeh, considered a top Hezbollah official until his 2008 killing in a Damascus car bombing.
Antonio Cassese, the judge presiding over the Hague-based tribunal, said on Wednesday that he hopes the findings will be released by next month.
If the report is correct and the tribunal does link Mughniyeh to the bombing, which left 22 others dead as well, then this is likely to result in intense criticism of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Domestically, tensions are likely to rise between the country's various ethno-religious communities, and pressure will mount on the heavily armed Shi'ite organization and its allies.
The Hezbollah leadership is likely concerned about the pending publication of the report and subsequent indictments, and leader Hassan Nasrallah may try to undermine the process.
Hezbollah had been hoping the tribunal would make do with indictments against low ranking members of the group. However, proof of Mughniyeh's involvement would put pressure on Nasrallah, who will be suspected of either having been involved in the assassination or allowing one of his lieutenants to act without his approval.
Another figure believed to be linked to the Hariri assassination is Mustafa Badr al-Din, Nasrallah's brother in law.
In recent months Nasrallah has tried to divert attention from the group by blaming Israel for forging evidence against Hezbollah.
Hezbollah and Syria have warned that the publication of the tribunal's findings may lead to the outbreak of renewed civil strife in Lebanon.
Nasrallah's deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, told the BBC's Arabic service recently that "such conclusions are tantamount to lighting the fuse that will bring about an explosion and it is dangerous for Lebanon."
Western intelligence analysts, however, believe a lack of willpower and Hezbollah's huge military advantage will stave off any chance of another civil war breaking out.
Syria and Saudi Arabia have tried recently to reach a compromise which would delay the release of the tribunal's findings, and Hezbollah went so far as to threaten pulling out of the ruling coalition in Lebanon if the government continued to support the tribunal financially.
However, current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated leader, has made it clear that he intend to continue backing the tribunal.
More than a week ago, a team collecting evidence on behalf of the tribunal was attacked in a Shi'ite neighborhood of Beirut.
Yesterday, United States Senator John Kerry met with Hariri and told him that Lebanon cannot stop the work of the international tribunal, in spite of Hezbollah pressure. Kerry stressed that Washington remained fully behind the tribunal.