Nasrallah hints Israel behind attacks

Suggests aim may have been to replace UNIFIL with a multinational force.

nassrallah smiling, 298  (photo credit: AP)
nassrallah smiling, 298
(photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah suggested Tuesday that Israel may be behind two recent bomb attacks that targeted United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon. Six peacekeepers belonging to the Spanish contingent were killed on June 24 when a bomb struck their armored personnel carrier in the country's south, marking the first such attack against the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL. On July 16, a roadside bomb struck a UN jeep in the village of Qassimiyeh near the southern port city of Tyre, causing damage to the vehicle but no casualties. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But in a videotape earlier this month, al-Qaida's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri blessed the attack against the Spanish contingent, fueling speculation that it was carried out by al-Qaida-linked militants. In an interview Tuesday on the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television, Nasrallah said that while it was possible that al-Qaida or other extremist groups were behind the attacks, Israel could also be the culprit. "Why not Israel?" Nasrallah said, adding that "Israel has an interest in attacking UNIFIL with the aim of transforming the force into a multinational force under Chapter 7." He was referring to a section of the UN Charter that empowers a UN force to suppress threats to international peace and security - reflecting what could be his perception that Israel hopes to see UN troops actively moving against Hizbullah guerrillas in the future. He also suggested Israel may want UNIFIL out of Lebanon, in case of another Israel-Hizbullah war. "It will be very embarrassing for the Israelis, especially if they are thinking in the next war to launch a large-scale land invasion (of south Lebanon), to have UNIFIL troops there," Nasrallah said. He said Hizbullah, which promptly condemned both bombings, was "concerned" by the attacks which were "worrying." In the first part of the interview, broadcast Monday, Nasrallah claimed his group has rockets that can reach any corner of Israeli territory. The interviews marked a year since the monthlong war between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas. After Monday's segment, celebratory gunshots and fireworks erupted in Beirut's southern Shiite Muslim and pro-Hizbullah suburbs. Last summer's war began on July 12, 2006 after Hizbullah fighters crossed into Israel, killing three soldiers and seizing two. Israel then invaded southern Lebanon and pounded the country with massive bombardments that destroyed most roads, bridges and other infrastructure. More than 1,000 Lebanese - mostly civilians - were killed in the month-long fighting, while 158 Israelis died, including 119 soldiers. Two days after Nasrallah told the world he would not give away information on the two soldiers "for free," he admitted that negotiations regarding their release were underway via an international mediator. Saniora's government has been locked in a bitter power struggle with the opposition, led by the Syria and Iran backed Hizbullah. Saniora has rejected the opposition's demand for a veto power in a new national unity government. Nasrallah claims the United States opposes such a government for Lebanon. "The Americans consider that forming a national unity government in Lebanon is a gain for Iran and Syria at a time when they are in big trouble in Iraq," he said. "This is not true." staff contributed to this reporet.