Speculation regarding the assassination of Hassan al-Laqqis on Thursday centered around Israel and radical Sunni groups linked with the rebels in Syria.

While a previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack and Israel denied any involvement, there was evidence for Hezbollah to point the finger at Israel.

For one thing, the professional way the hit was carried out is similar to methods used by Israel in the past.

Sunni Islamists tend to make their attacks messier and use bombs that tend to kill innocent bystanders.

Also, it cannot be ruled out out that the Baalbek Brigade is a fiction, created by Israel or some other actor online.

Hezbollah MP Kamel al-Rifai implied this when he said the group that claimed the attack did not really exist.

“The Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade which claimed responsibility for the assassination of Hezbollah official Hassan Laqqis is virtual and does not exist in Baalbek,” Rifai said on Wednesday in an interview with Al-Markaziyya news agency and quoted by the NOW Lebanon website.

Referring to Laqqis, Matthew Levitt, author of the recent book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God and a senior fellow and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, told The Jerusalem Post that there is “no question, he is important.”

In his book, Levitt writes about Laqqis and how he served as Hezbollah’s chief military procurement officer.

Levitt describes how procurement activities in Canada were partially funded by money sent from Laqqis in Lebanon.

In this way, Hezbollah sought night vision goggles, GPS systems, metal detection equipment, cameras, advanced aircraft analysis and design software, and other computer accessories, said Levitt.

Laqqis was a Hezbollah commander who fought in Syria’s civil war.

“By all indications, whoever killed Hassan Laqqis did so in retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. The perpetrators probably would have preferred to kill Hassan Nasrallah instead, but the security ring around him is much greater,” said Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation) and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

“The Sunni jihadists fighting in Syria against President Bashar Assad, Iran, Iraqi Shi’ites and Hezbollah, promised long ago that they would kill the ‘rat of Damascus’ and the ‘rat of Beirut.’” In this case, it seems they were able to get the “friend of the rat,” said Kedar.

Laqqis follows a long line of Hezbollah members who have lost their lives in Lebanon because of the war in Syria, he said.

While Kedar does not rule out that another party could have been behind the assassination, “in the current situation, it seems that the background was painted in Syrian Sunni blood.”

Tony Badran, a columnist for the Beirut-based website NOW Lebanon and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post that while both Sunni groups and Israel would benefit from the assassination, the available evidence at this point leads him to point the finger more in Israel’s direction.

Laqqis was involved in the group’s drone program since the 1990s and tried to procure other kinds of technology for Hezbollah, Badran said.

While it is true that the radical Sunni groups have good intelligence on Hezbollah, “the nature of the target makes me wonder,” he said.



Badran also makes a possible connection between this assassination and that of other important figures involved in the shadowy world of covert Hezbollah-Iran arms procurement.



There was Hezbollah’s operations head, Imad Mughniyeh, the very capable military man who linked Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.



He was assassinated by a car bomb in central Damascus in 2008.



Levitt notes how there seems to have been ties between him and Laqqis.



Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated in Dubai in January 2010, played a key role in developing ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force. 



“Mabhouh was also in charge of logistics and was responsible for procuring rockets from Iran to Gaza through Sudan and Egypt,” wrote Badran in an article for NOW Lebanon.



And in November 2011, a mysterious explosion killed Revolutionary Guards commander, General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, who was working on creating Hezbollah missile units, according to a report on the Al-Arabiya website.



Moghaddam was an engineer, reportedly trained in China and North Korea, who was an important person in Iran’s ballistic missile program.

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