Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on Monday reiterated his previous assertion that Israel was behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005, alleging that Israel had tried to convince the former Lebanese prime minister that Hezbollah was plotting to kill him. Nasrallah denied having any connection to the assassination.
The Secretary General of the Lebanese militia convened what Hezbollah officials called a "critical" press conference in Beirut to reveal evidence proving Israel's culpability Hariri's murder.
A United Nations tribunal was established in 2007 to try suspects in Hariri's assassination. Hariri was killed in a massive bomb blast in Beirut, along with 20 other people. His allies have accused Syria and its followers in Lebanon of being behind the murder, a charge Damascus has repeatedly denied.
During the press conference, Nasrallah said that in 1993 Israel tried to pit Hariri against Hezbollah and convince him that Hezbollah was out to assassinate him.
"Israel was looking for a way to assassinate Hariri in order to create political chaos that would force Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, and to perpetuate an anti-Syrian atmosphere [in Lebanon] in the wake of the assassination," Nasrallah proclaimed.
He went on to say that in 1996 Hezbollah apprehended an agent working for Israel by the name of Ahmed Nasrallah – no relation to Hassan Nasrallah – who allegedly contacted Hariri's security detail and told them that he had solid proof that Hezbollah was planning to take his life, claiming to be a close associated of then Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh.
According to the Hezbollah chief, that same Israeli agent was released by the Lebanese authorities, then under Syrian control, and he fled Lebanon and currently lives in Israel.
As proof of these claims, Nasrallah played an audio tape on which the alleged agent could be heard confessing to working for Israel and saying that he was asked by his Israeli handlers to warn Hariri's men of the assassination plot.
A video was also featured during the press conference, which included news articles and videos of senior Israeli reporters. One of the clips included a Haaretz article by Amos Harel on a Military Intelligence report indicating that Israel expected Hezbollah to assassinate Hariri.
Late last month, Nasrallah indicated that he had been informed that the UN tribunal would indict some Hezbollah members, saying that "out of his keenness to ensure national unity, [Lebanese Premier Saad] Hariri told me that the UN tribunal indictment will be issued and will accuse some members of Hezbollah."
Referring to rumors of an upcoming indictment of Hezbollah members, Nasrallah said last week that his organization rejected "the idea that Hezbollah members might be indicted," noting that the indictment does not accuse Syria.
The Hezbollah chief warned that "there's a new scheme that targets the resistance [Hezbollah], Lebanon and the region through the Special Tribunal for Lebanon."