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LEBANON: Israel prepping for Nasrallah kill, says Hezbollah

May 22, 2009 | 12:44 pm


Everyone in Lebanon has been noticing how Hezbollah's rhetoric has been heating up lately. 

The group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, made it clear in a number of speeches this week that his party would tolerate neither spies, Israeli "aggression" nor what he described as Lebanese government hypocrisy. 

It's volatile talk ahead of critical June 7 elections in which Hezbollah needs to sway at least some Christians to vote in its favor.

On Monday, Nasrallah warned that the Islamic militant group would be on high alert as Israel prepared to conduct its largest military maneuvers since 1961, a series of armed forces and emergency services drills expected to take place toward the end of the month.

Now, the group's former international relations officer, Nawaf Moussawi, tells the pan-Arab daily Al Sharq al Awsat that the drills are a "rehearsal to confront the repercussions of the assassination of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, which will lead, if achieved, to a total explosion."

Although Israel has not discussed the drills publicly, the left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the air force carried out drills Thursday and that the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon had assured the Lebanese government that the maneuvers were defensive and nonthreatening.

Moussawi goes on to say that Hezbollah is dealing with these maneuvers "responsibly and seriously" but also with "readiness and alertness" in case Israel has decided to assassinate Nasrallah.

Local media have been reporting that at least one of the suspects arrested and charged with spying for Israel recently was tasked with pinpointing Nasrallah's exact location, thought to be a secret underground bunker somewhere in Beirut.

Moussawi's comments are made against a background of tightened security on the part of both Hezbollah and Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, which have arrested yet another suspected spy, identified only as Ziyad S., according to the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar. 

The paper also reported Hezbollah's discovery of a number of "spy cameras" at the entrances to businesses and organizations in Beirut's southern suburbs, where most of the party's offices are located.

Speaking via closed-circuit television to festive crowds gathered in the southern town of Nabatiyeh today for the anniversary of Israel's 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah warned against allowing sectarian politics to interfere with the spy-network investigations.

"I say, start by executing the agents from the Shiite community!" he said to thunderous applause.

Nasrallah went on to suggest the alleged agents might be connected to the series of bombing and assassinations that had rocked the country since 2005.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: With the image of an Israeli funeral as a back drop, flag-waving Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon watch a video address by the Islamic militant group's leader Hassan Nasrallah on a TV screen. Credit: Mohammed Zaatari / Associated Press