(photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah’s claim that Israel was behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri shows the organization’s deep worry that the international tribunal investigating the murder will place the blame at its doorstep, Israeli officials said on Sunday.
“This is completely ridiculous and – most importantly – everyone knows it,” one senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said of Hizbullah’s claims. “When they start casting for straws like this, it just shows the degree of pressure they are under.”
Is war in the offing?
Illusion and reality clash in
Hizbullah, the official said, will have a serious problem on its hands if it is indicted for the murder.
“They are looking for a way out,” he said.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is expected to publicly blame Israel in a speech on Monday for the car bombing that killed the former Lebanese prime minister and 20 others on February 14, 2005. The Ma’an News Agency was told by a Hizbullah source on Sunday that the evidence tying Israel to the assassination, which has not yet been released, is “comprehensive, revealing, conclusive information.”
Last month, Nasrallah criticized the UN tribunal that had been investigating Hariri’s assassination since 2007, amid reports that members of the organization would likely be implicated. Nasrallah called into question the tribunal’s impartiality, stating that some of its members were connected to Israel. Those comments came in a prerecorded announcement aired on Lebanese television.
Nasrallah added that Hizbullah possessed proof that would exonerate its members from involvement in Hariri’s assassination, and that it would reveal it when the time comes.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said they saw no connection between Hizbullah’s concern over the Hariri tribunal and the incident on the Lebanese border last week in which the Lebanese army opened fire and killed an IDF officer.
This prompted counter-fire, during which three Lebanese army soldiers and a journalist were killed. But the officials rejected the notion that this had been an attempt to provoke Israel in order to detract attention form the Hariri tribunal.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with his Lebanese counterpart, Ali al- Shami, in Teheran on Sunday, and told him that Iran would offer full support to Lebanon and Syria in the event of an Israeli attack. He added that Iran, Syria and Lebanon were in constant contact and shared their opinions on the potential Israeli war threat.
“The government of the Islamic Republic and the Iranian people stand beside the governments and the people of Lebanon and Syria against the violence and the threats of the Zionist regime,” Mottaki said, adding that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was set to make an official state visit to Lebanon after Ramadan, which ends around September 10 this year.
The visit would be the first by an Iranian president to Lebanon since Mohammad Khatami came to Beirut in 2003.
Mottaki said Iran was holding continuous consultations with Beirut and Damascus, and that Teheran was “ready to answer positively any request from its brothers.”
Mottaki and Shami lashed out at Israel for the recent clashes along the Israel-Lebanon border and for the May 31 raid by its commandos on an protest flotilla heading to Gaza.
“The survival of the Zionist regime is facing a serious problem,” Mottaki said, in comments translated by the English-language Press TV channel.
The Iranian Navy took charge of four new Iranian-built submarines as part of Teheran's efforts to upgrade its defenses, the Islamic Republic’s state media said. The official IRNA news agency said Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi and navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari attended Sunday’s ceremony marking the delivery of the vessels to the Iranian Navy.
IRNA said the Ghadir-class submarines could fire missiles and torpedoes at the same time and operate in the Persian Gulf’s shallow waters.
Iran has sought to upgrade its air defense systems and naval power, saying any possible future attacks against Iran would be air- and seabased. Iran has also three Russianmade submarines.
Meanwhile, an Israel Navy vessel opened fire on a Lebanese fishing boat
over the weekend after it sailed into a restricted zone and ignored
warnings to leave, the IDF Spokesman’s Office confirmed on Sunday.
The army’s confirmation came after Lebanese Army reports of the incident
surfaced over the weekend.
“Early Saturday morning, a Lebanese fishing boat left the permitted
fishing area, and when the ship did not heed calls from the Israeli
military to return to the permitted fishing area, shots were fired,” an
IDF representative told The Jerusalem Post. “There were no casualties in
In response, the Lebanese Armed Forces issued a statement in which it
claimed that Israel “continues to violate UN Resolution 1701,” although
no specifics were given.
While the incident was comparatively minor, it came less than a week
after the flare-up on the northern border.