Hezbollah’s Hariri accusations ‘ridiculous’: Israel

Israel on Tuesday dismissed as “ridiculous” Hezbollah claims to have acquired Israeli footage implicating the Jewish state in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

By (Agencies)

Published: Tue 10 Aug 2010, 10:54 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:47 AM

Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Lebanese Shia group, on Monday unveiled footage allegedly intercepted from Israeli surveillance planes of the site where Hariri was killed in a bombing in February 2005.

“Everyone in the world knows, even the Lebanese, that Nasrallah’s accusations are ridiculous,” said a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It was clear that the accusations were “coming from the pressure on (Nasrallah) over the international community’s suspicions about Hezbollah’s involvement in Hariri’s murder,” he said.

Several undated clips, which were broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television, showed aerial views of the coastline off mainly Sunni west Beirut on various dates before the Hariri assassination.

“Such footage generally comes as the first leg of the execution of an operation,” Nasrallah said, while admitting the images were not conclusive.

Nasrallah, who has accused Israel of the bombing on February 14, 2005 which killed Hariri and 22 others, said the footage was intercepted from Israeli surveillance aircraft.

Hezbollah is facing increasing pressure as a UN tribunal looking into the assassination appears set to indict several members of the Shia militia.

Any indictment is likely to be made by the end of the year.

The Hariri assassination triggered an international outcry and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in April 2005 after a deployment of almost three decades.

The murder has been widely blamed on Syria but Damascus has consistently denied involvement.

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Hezbollah accuses Israel of Hariri assassination

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah has presented aerial reconnaissance footage that he said implicates Israel in the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri.

But Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has been in hiding since his Shia Muslim group battled Israel in a monthlong 2006 war, acknowledged the material was not absolute proof.

“This is evidence, indications ... that open new horizons for the investigations,” Nasrallah said at a lengthy press conference late on Monday in which he spoke to reporters via satellite link.

The speech comes as pressure is mounting on Hezbollah over a Netherlands-based tribunal investigating Hariri’s assassination, which is set to issue indictments this year. If Hezbollah is indicted, there are fears it could spark riots between the Sunni supporters of Hariri and Shia followers of Hezbollah.

The two sides have clashed before following political power struggles. In May 2008, Hezbollah gunmen swept through Sunni pro-government neighborhoods of Beirut, raising the threat of a new civil war.

Israel swiftly dismissed Hezbollah’s allegations.

“Nasrallah’s accusations against Israel are ridiculous lies,” said Yossi Levy, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Hariri was killed in a massive Valentine’s Day truck bombing in 2005 that many in Lebanon blamed on Syria, which backs Hezbollah. Syria denies any involvement in the assassination.

Hariri, a billionaire businessman credited with rebuilding Lebanon after its 15-year civil war, had been trying to limit Syria’s domination of Lebanon in the months before his assassination.

The killing sparked massive anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon, dubbed the “Cedar Revolution,” which led to Syria’s withdrawal.

Nasrallah said the tapes shown on Monday were intercepted by Hezbollah between the 1990s and 2005, and showed Israeli reconnaissance footage of areas frequented by Hariri, including where he died. He said this proved Israel was tracking his movements for purposes of assassination.

Asked why he was presenting the material at a press conference as opposed to the tribunal, Nasrallah said: “I do not cooperate with parties that I do not trust.”

The tribunal has not said who will be charged, but Nasrallah said last month he already knows that Hezbollah members will be among them. His July 22 announcement appeared to be an attempt to soften the impact of any charges.

He has said the tribunal has no credibility and is simply an “Israeli project,” and that his group will not turn over any of its members for trial.

In response to questions about why Nasrallah chose to offer the material five years after Hariri’s assassination, he said the recent arrests of scores of Lebanese agents who were spying for Israel since last year has yielded information proving Israel’s deep involvement in a number of assassinations in the country.

Nasrallah said his group also has just learned of an Israeli spy who had been scouting the area of the assassination just a day before the truck bomb that killed Hariri exploded. The spy, however, fled before authorities could arrest him.

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