LEBANON: Hezbollah accuses Israel in Rafik Hariri assassination
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the militant group Hezbollah, accused Israel of plotting and carrying out the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri based on confessions from former Israeli spies and purported Israeli surveillance video.
Nasrallah, speaking during a highly anticipated news conference Monday night, unveiled never before seen video allegedly intercepted from Israeli surveillance drones that appears to show close monitoring of the Beirut site where Hariri and 22 others died in a massive explosion on February 14, 2005.
"These scenes that I will show you are not all the evidence, which would require much more time…they are examples of Israeli surveillance over time, taken from different angles and at different times," he said. "Why were the Israelis looking at these places specifically when there are no resistance [Hezbollah] offices there?"
Nasrallah was careful to add that the evidence presented was not conclusive, but that it raised questions about possible Israeli involvement in the killing of the former prime minister and 22 other people, as well as the string of assassinations that followed over several years. However, he added that Hezbollah would only hand over the evidence to the Lebanese government because the group does not trust the U.N.-backed international tribunal.
The news conference comes after weeks of tension following reports that Hezbollah operatives may be indicted in the U.N.-backed tribunal that investigating Hariri's assassination. Indictments are expected to be handed down in coming months.
Nasrallah did not give a clear reason why, if Israel was involved, his group waited so long to bring allegations against its arch enemy. In response to a question from a journalist, Nasrallah seemed to imply that the evidence was not presented earlier because it would have drawn suspicion on Hezbollah.
"If I presented the evidence in 2005, 2006 or 2007 they would have said, 'Why are you talking about it? You are not accused,' " he said.
Nasrallah built his case on what he claimed were Israeli attempts to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and Hariri dating back as far as 1993; he cited the recorded testimony of a Lebanese agent of Israel that the Israelis worked to convince Hariri that Hezbollah was planning to assassinate him.
The Hezbollah leader went on to present biographies of several other spies who confessed to monitoring Lebanese politicians, including figures in the U.S. and Saudi-backed parliamentary majority, and assisting Israeli forces carry out operations inside Lebanon.
— Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Credit: Associated Press