Hezbollah chief exposes Hariri assassins

August 11, 2010 - 0:0

BEIRUT -- An extensive history of Israeli espionage and reconnaissance activities was unveiled to the public on Monday by the leader of Hezbollah, who demanded that the Lebanese government form a committee to study information that he said should be investigated as part of the probe into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination.

Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a two-hour presentation of the information during a news conference in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where some 150 members of the media gathered to watch him via video link.
The Lebanese resistance movement's secretary general disclosed that in 1997, the Hezbollah intercepted Israeli transmissions from its aerial reconnaissance aircraft, and he aired a series of excerpts of this footage, predating Hariri’s killing.
Nasrallah presented video materials captured by Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as well as recorded confessions by Israeli fifth columnists substantiating that the February 14, 2005 assassination of Hariri in the capital was carried out on orders from Tel Aviv.
The footage was divided into three sections: it covered extensive shots of the area between the St. George Club, where Hariri was killed by a truck bomb, and the late premier’s residence in Qoreitem, with repeated shots of turns in the road along Corniche al-Manara. Nasrallah said the footage indicated that the Israelis were likely studying methods of carrying out bombings and assassinations, since official motorcades slow down at such turns, The Daily Star reported.
The Lebanese network Al-Manar aired the speech and incorporated the evidence, showing intercepted footage of Hariri's house in the lead-up to the massive car bombing which killed him and claimed the lives of 22 other people, Press TV reported.
The footage included shots of what Nasrallah said was Hariri’s path to his vacation residence in Faqra, Kesrouan, as well as the city of Sidon, with a focus on the residence of his brother, Shafik.
“And there are no Hezbollah centers or homes of officials in these areas,” he said.
Nasrallah added that the Islamic resistance movement had begun assembling the footage only in the last two years, from an accumulated store of material, and hadn’t had time to compile similar excerpts of Israeli reconnaissance around the areas frequented by other politicians who were assassinated in the wake of Hariri’s killing.
“This isn’t definitive proof,” he said, “but it opens up new horizons for the investigations.”
Nasrallah added that the aerial reconnaissance footage was necessarily incomplete, because the resistance was unable to crack some of its encoding.
“Just because we don’t have footage of (a given location), doesn’t mean the Israelis didn’t take pictures of it,” he said.
The secretary general said his party wouldn’t present the evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, since he had “no trust” in the body, but expressed his hope that the Lebanese government would act on it.
Nasrallah said other information held by Hezbollah would remain secret for now, but could become public if the need arose.
He denied that he was harming the military capabilities of the resistance by disclosing that it had cracked the Israeli reconnaissance transmissions, indicating that the 1997 Insariya operation had generated “the hypothesis” on the part of the Israelis that their transmissions had been compromised.
On September 5, 1997, a 15-man Israeli commando team was ambushed in the southern village by the resistance, which had learned of their route thanks to intercepted aerial footage.
The Lebanese Defense Ministry reports show Israeli warplanes and reconnaissance aircraft flew over the area where Hariri was assassinated on the day he was murdered, Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah began the news conference by detailing Israel’s attempts, as far back as the mid-1990s, to plant the notion that Hezbollah intended to assassinate Hariri, and aired the confessions of an Israeli agent, Ahmad Hussein Nasrallah, who succeeded in convincing members of Hariri’s security detail that this was the case.
The Syrians, he said, took the information so seriously that they arrested Salameh, a Hezbollah operative, causing Nasrallah to lobby Syria’s then-senior intelligence figure in Lebanon, General Ghazi Kenaan, for his release.
Ahmad Nasrallah was later arrested on suspicion of being an Israeli agent, but released by the Lebanese judiciary in 2000, prior to the liberation of the south, and then fled to Israel, where Hezbollah’s leader said he was still active in recruiting agents.
Al-Manar also aired film footage showing Israeli espionage agents acknowledging their roles in the assassination.
Ahmad Nasrallah “gave false information to former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri through someone who worked with Hariri in the security area,” the Al-Manar narrator stated, and added, “He said that Hezbollah wanted to assassinate Rafik Hariri.”
Afterwards Al-Manar showed the agent admitting to the ruse.
Syria was accused of being behind the plot to assassinate Hariri, which undermined the tenuous ties between Damascus and Beirut and eventually led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
The Hezbollah leader said Ahmed Nasrallah had sought to frighten the late Lebanese premier with the allegations as part of a larger plot to drive Syria out of Lebanon.
He went on to say that the assassination was meant to spark a sectarian and religious war in Lebanon, adding that if the United Nations tribunal investigating the case fails to consider the new evidence, it will show that the investigation has been politicized.
Nasrallah also aired brief footage of half-a-dozen suspected Israeli agents, all Lebanese, and highlighted information obtained during their interrogations. More than 150 suspected agents have been rounded up in 2009 and one suspect, Philipos Sader, was tasked with monitoring President Michel Suleiman and army commander General Jean Kahwaji. Nasrallah said Sader was tasked with focusing on Suleiman’s residence in Amsheet, Jbeil, and gathering information about Kahwaji’s yacht, The Daily Star reported.
“If Syria, or Hezbollah, were found to be gathering such information, what would have happened?” he asked.
Other alleged agents, Nasrallah continued, had confessed to gathering information about the movements of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
The case of Mahmoud Rafeh, the agent who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, covered the planting of bombs in Naameh in 1999 and Zahrani in 2005. The latter incident, which saw the discovery and dismantling of the explosive, could have been an unsuccessful attempt to kill Speaker Nabih Berri.
Nasrallah raised the case of Ghassan Jidd, an Israeli agent who he said fled the country in 2009, three years after the resistance alerted the authorities to his suspicious movements. He said the resistance had evidence that Jidd was in the St. George area on February 13, 2005, a day before Hariri’s killing, but declined to describe the evidence, vowing to submit it to any concerned body.
Nasrallah’s news conference sought to highlight the fact that Israeli agents have carried out a wide range of tasks, such as helping Israeli operatives and commandos enter and exit the country, usually by sea. He urged that the sum total of Israeli espionage committee be gathered by a semi-official or official body and “mapped out,” to get a sense of the scope of this activity.
Lebanon hails Hezbollah revelations
Lebanese politicians have hailed evidence presented by Hezbollah leader on Israel's involvement in the murder of Hariri, Press TV reported.
“There is valuable evidence and is worth taking it into consideration,” leader of Lebanon's Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun told Al-Manar TV, Naharnet news portal reported.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said the evidence “opened the door wide on how the assassination took place.”
The Druze leader called on the March 14 coalition to avoid entering into a standoff with other parties.
“We all want to know the truth but not in a way that would change its course and take the country to strife,” he said.
“We have to remember that what led to this disaster was (Security Council) resolution 1559. In order for it to be implemented, it was imperative to kill Hariri,” the Lebanese politician stated.
Naharnet cited an article in the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar on Tuesday, saying Israeli media stopped Nasrallah's live broadcast when Al-Manar aired footage allegedly intercepted from Israeli surveillance planes of the Lebanese territory prior to Hariri's assassination.