Israel blamed for assassination attempt

Hizbullah man barely escapes vehicle explosion; IAF denies involvement.

hizbullah flag 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hizbullah flag 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A senior instructor of Hizbullah's guerrillas escaped an assassination attempt Friday night when a bomb blew up his car seconds after he got out of the vehicle, Lebanese police said. The explosion in the eastern city of Ba'albek caused no casualties, a police official said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press. Hizbullah blamed Israel for the "treacherous assassination attempt" and warned that it will retaliate. "The Zionist enemy is fully responsible for the operation's planning and execution," Hizbullah said in a statement broadcast on its Al-Manar Television. "The Islamic resistance will fully shoulder its responsibility in this regard and do what is necessary," the statement added. The IAF denied any involvement in the incident. Neither Hizbullah nor the police would identify the official who drove the car, a Mercedes. Al-Manar said he was a member of the group's military wing, and the police said he was in charge of training guerrillas. Al-Manar said the explosion took place near the house of Sheik Mohammed Yazbek, who sits on Hizbullah's Shoura Council, its top decision-making authority. A reporter for The Associated Press said the bomb exploded 300 meters from Yazbek's house. A small crowd quickly gathered at the scene. Police tried to stop media from taking pictures and threw a tarpaulin over the wrecked vehicle. The type of bomb was not immediately clear, the police official added. A series of mysterious bombings have taken place in Lebanon since former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed with 20 other people in February. The attacks have often targeted journalists and politicians known to be opposed to Syrian influence in Lebanon. Nobody has been arrested for the explosions, and the government has acknowledged that it is nowhere close to detaining the culprits. It was not clear whether Friday's bombing was related to this series of explosions or the latest attempt to kill a senior member of Hizbullah's military wing. Two Hizbullah military personnel have been killed by car bombs in the past two years. In July last year, a car bomb killed veteran Hizbullah commander Ghaleb Awali, 40, in south Beirut. In August 2003 another car bomb killed Ali Hussein Saleh, who was widely believed to be an explosives expert for Hizbullah. Hizbullah blamed Israel for both attacks. Backed by Iran and Syria, Hizbullah led a guerrilla war against Israel's 18-year occupation of a border zone in south Lebanon. The occupation ended in 2000 when Israel withdrew its forces. Israel and the US State Department consider Hizbullah to be a terrorist organization, but the Lebanese government regards it as a legitimate resistance movement.