Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah placed the responsibility for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri squarely on the shoulders of Israel and bragged about killing Israeli naval commando soldiers at a press conference in Beirut on Monday.

According to the Hizbullah leader, Israel's goal all along was to find a way to force Syria, Hizbullah's patron, out of Lebanon and blaming the death of Hariri on Hizbullah was the means to achieving that goal.

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Nasrallah blamed Israel for first attempting to open a rift between the Sunni supporters of Hariri and the Shi'ite Hizbullah in 1993 by telling Hariri that Hizbullah was attempting to have him killed.

The Hizbullah head continued his story of Israeli duplicity, telling reporters that in 1996 Hizbullah forces arrested Ahmed Nasrallah (no relation) a Lebanese agent working for Israel who had contacted Hariri's security apparatus on Israel's orders telling them that he worked closely with Imad Mugniyeh, then head of Hizbullah's military wing, and that he had information regarding a Hizbullah plan to kill Hariri.


Hassan Nasrallah stated that the Lebanese security forces later freed the alleged Israeli agent who, he said, fled to Israel in 2000, where he remains until today.

Nasrallah played for journalists a video clip of the alleged agent confessing to working for Israel and attempting to warn Hariri about a Hizbullah assassination attempt.

"This is how the Israelis from the beginning placed into everyone's minds this conspiracy [that Hizbullah killed Hariri]," said Hassan Nasrallah.

Nasrallah also discussed at the press conference a 1997 incident in which 12 IDF naval commando soldiers were killed on a secret mission in Lebanon, saying "we set up a trap for them."

"We assumed that Israel was going to act. Our people waiting a few weeks, and on one of the nights, the commando soldiers came...and fell into the trap that we prepared," Nasrallah said. He presented photographs taken from an unarmed IAF aircraft, which Hizbullah recovered before attacking the commandos.

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