2 grenades thrown at office of Hizbullah-allied party

Attack on Free Patriotic Movement comes after Nasrallah promises Hizbullah's resignation from gov't will not lead to civil war.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, ,
January 14, 2011 00:58
4 minute read.
Hizbullah fighters parade in southern Beirut

Hizbullah parade 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

Two hand grenades were thrown on Thursday night at an office belonging to Lebanese politician Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, which is considered an ally of Hizbullah.

The attack came after Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah promised that his group's withdrawal from the Lebanese government, causing it to collapse, on Wednesday would not lead to civil war in the country.

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An official Lebanese news agency reported that the grenades were thrown at a structure of Aoun's Christian party in the village of Beit Habab, about 25 km from Beirut.

According to reports, only one of the grenades exploded and inflicted damage to the property, and no one was hurt.

Security forces reportedly opened an investigation into the incident, and it was not clear whether the grenade-throwing was related to the political crisis sparked by Hizbullah's resignation from the government.

Several political forces were quick to condemn the incident, reports said.



Earlier Thursday, the IDF raised the level of alert along the northern border as a precautionary measure, and officers expressed concern that violence could break out as Lebanon sinks deeper into political disarray. They did not perceive an imminent danger, however.

The Iran-backed Hizbullah bolted over the government’s continued cooperation with the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. The tribunal is expected to indict Hizbullah members soon.

Hizbullah timed the dissolution of the government to coincide with the White House visit of Lebanon’s current prime minister, Hariri’s son Saad.

A senior officer in the IDF’s Northern Command said commanders were following events in Lebanon very closely for any sign Hizbullah might heat up the northern border to deflect attention from the political turmoil.

“We need to be prepared for every possible scenario,” another senior officer said.

The IDF has not called up reservists and has held back from significantly beefing up forces along the border, but troops stationed there have been asked to be more vigilant while on routine patrols.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya’acov Amidror, the former head of research in IDF Military Intelligence, told Army Radio the prevailing Israeli assessment was that Hizbullah had no interest at this point in a war with Israel. Both the armed group – and more importantly, Iran – prefer to keep Hizbullah primed to assault Israel in the event Iran is attacked, the retired general said.

Still, in the current situation, Amidror said he would advise the military to “cast aside all these learned assessments from me and others,” because the situation in Lebanon is so unsettled.

“Things are liable to slip out of the hands of decision-makers,” he said. “You never know in such a volatile and delicate situation, where everyone has a lot of weapons, a lot of resentment, a lot of frustration – you never know where it could lead.”

Meanwhile on Thursday, the IDF caught a Lebanese man who had crossed the border. He was taken for questioning, and UNIFIL was updated about his arrest. It appeared that he had crossed the border accidentally at an area where the border is not clearly marked.

On the political front, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman briefly addressed the situation in Lebanon during his visit to Greece on Thursday, saying after his meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou that Hizbullah was using “extortion and threats” to prevent the publication of the Hariri investigation’s conclusions.

“This is not only a domestic Lebanese matter, but rather an important test for the entire international community,” he said.

Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak made any public comment on the crisis in Lebanon on Thursday.

Saad Hariri was set to travel to Turkey late Thursday for talks on the situation.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, meanwhile, told a news conference he had spoken to Hariri twice while he was in a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton discussing upcoming nuclear talks in Istanbul between Iran and world powers.

Hariri is expected to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Davutoglu on Friday.

Also Thursday, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah met with Walid Jumblatt in an attempt to gain the backing of the Lebanese Druse leader. Jumblatt is expected to go to Damascus shortly, possibly to meet with President Bashar Assad on the crisis.

In a Hizbullah statement released following the meeting, the Shi’ite group said the two discussed “the latest political developments in Lebanon, the outcome of the Syrian-Saudi efforts and the resignation of the opposition ministers from the government,” the Lebanese paper an-Nahar reported.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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