Top Hezbollah Commander Assassinated

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BEIRUT: A senior commander for Hezbollah was assassinated Wednesday outside his home in southern Beirut, security officials said.

Hezbollah immediately announced the death of Hassan al-Laqis and described him as one of the founding members of the group, suggesting he was a high-level commander close to the party’s leadership. It said in a statement al-Laqis was killed as he returned home from work around midnight, without offering details about how he died.

Lebanese security officials said assailants opened fire on al-Laqis with an assault rifle while he was in his car, parked at the residential building where he lived in the Hadath neighborhood, some two miles southwest of Beirut.

He was rushed to a nearby hospital but died early Wednesday from his wounds, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The statement accused Israel of being responsible for the killing. It said Israel tried to kill him several times, but had failed.

”The Israeli enemy is naturally directly to blame,” the statement said. ”This enemy must shoulder complete responsibility and repercussions for this ugly crime and its repeated targeting of leaders and cadres of the resistance.”

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied Israeli involvement.

”Israel has nothing to do with this incident,” Palmor said. ”These automatic accusations are an innate reflex with Hezbollah. They don’t need evidence, they don’t need facts, they just blame anything on Israel.”

Hezbollah has fought several wars against Israel. Al-Laqis’ son died fighting Israel in the month-long 2006 war. Israel’s spy service has been suspected of assassinating Hezbollah commanders for more than two decades.

In 1992, Israeli helicopter gunships ambushed the motorcade of Hezbollah leader Sheik Abbas Musawi, killing him, his wife, five-year-old son and four bodyguards. Eight years earlier, Hezbollah leader Sheik Ragheb Harb was gunned down in south Lebanon.

But one of the biggest blows for the group came in 2005 when Imad Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah military commander, was killed by a bomb that ripped through his car in Damascus.

Current Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has rarely appeared in public since the 2006 war. 

Al-Laqis’ killing came a half an hour after Nasrallah ended a three-hour interview with a local television station, in which he accused Saudi Arabia of being behind last month’s twin bombings that targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing 23 people.

SAUDIS BEHIND BOMBINGS: Nasrallah blamed Saudi Arabia for a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed 25 people last month.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al Qaeda affiliate that claimed responsibility for the attacks, “has an emir and he is Saudi, and I am convinced that it is linked to the Saudi intelligence services, which direct groups like this one in several parts of the world,” Nasrallah told Lebanese broadcaster OTV.

The November 19 bomb attacks on the Iranian embassy came amid major regime offensives on several key fronts in Syria’s brutal war, among them Damascus province and Aleppo.

In his remarks to OTV, Nasrallah said the blasts that hit the embassy were “linked to Saudi Arabia’s rage against Iran over its failure” in Syria.

Saudi Arabia is “making Iran pay the price for the consequences of the failure of its plans in the region,” he added.

On Hezbollah’s controversial involvement in Syria’s brutal war Nasrallah said his movement has sent in fighters “to protect Lebanon.”

”Should Syria fall into the hands of these (rebel) armed groups, what will Lebanon’s future be?” Nasrallah asked. Agencies

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