Hezbollah Vows to Block Arrests Over Hariri Killing

UN-backed tribunal expected to indict members of the Lebanese militant group by end of the year.

Hezbollah will not allow the arrest of any of its members if the inquiry into the 2005
killing of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri indicts them, the group's leader leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday.

"Mistaken (are those) who think that we will allow the arrest or the detention of any of our fighters," he told supporters in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Hezbollah's stronghold.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

"Any hand that will touch any of them will be cut off," he said to a cheering crowd.

Hezbollah and western diplomats say that the UN-backed tribunal investigating the killing of Hariri is expected to indict members of the group by end of the year. Tension has escalated in Lebanon over the tribunal in the past few months.

Security sources in Lebanon have warned of a violent reaction by the Hezbollah if it is formally charged for the murder, saying it could even launch a coup to unseat the current government headed by Hariri's son, Saad.

Syria, which alongside Iran is Hezbollah's major backer in the region, is also deeply worried by the prospect of an indictment. In late October, the country's President, Bashar Assad, said indictments against Hezbollah could "rip Lebanon apart".

Hariri and 21 others were killed when a massive bomb tore into his convoy as it drove through central Beirut. A later UN report suggested the explosion may have been the work of a suicide bomber.

Initial investigations appeared to point to Syrian involvement and while the tribunal has not ruled this out, four Syrian generals detained in 2005 were released last year for lack of evidence.