Hezbollah presses Israel-Hariri charge
BEIRUT — Lebanon yesterday gave a UN tribunal material provided by Hezbollah to press the militant group’s allegation that Israel was linked to the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon.
Israel has dismissed Hezbollah’s repeated claims as ridiculous. UN investigators have been probing Hariri’s killing for years but have never pointed to possible Israeli involvement — which Hezbollah says is a sign of bias.
Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has said it expects some of its members to face indictments by the tribunal in the Netherlands investigating Hariri’s assassination and asserts the panel has no credibility. The militant group recently pointed the finger at its sworn enemy Israel, possibly in an attempt to deflect attention from any indictments.
Lebanon’s government is an uneasy coalition of a Western-backed bloc and Hezbollah, which in just a few years has gained so much political power it now has a virtual veto over government decisions.
Hezbollah is undoubtedly the country’s most powerful military force, with an arsenal that far outweighs that of the Western-backed national army. The group has drawn praise in the past for standing up to Israel’s powerful military, although its 2006 war with Israel and 2008 sectarian clashes with political rivals raised criticism among some Lebanese that the movement was dragging the country into violent conflicts.
Hariri was killed in a massive Valentine’s Day truck bombing in 2005 that many in Lebanon blamed on Syria, which also backs Hezbollah. Syria denies involvement.
Hariri, a billionaire businessman credited with rebuilding Lebanon after its 15-year civil war, had been trying to limit Syria’s domination of Lebanon in the months before his assassination.
His killing sparked massive anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon, dubbed the “Cedar Revolution,’’ which led to Syria’s withdrawal of all of its tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon.
Last week, Hezbollah unveiled what it said was aerial reconnaissance footage and other material that implicates Israel. Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged the material was not absolute proof, but said it can open new horizons for the investigation.