Backlash after Ghobeiri Street Named after Badreddine
Politics is playing out in a street of Beirut's southern suburbs, with the naming of a road after a Hizbullah commander accused of masterminding the assassination of ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri.
The backlash comes just days after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a U.N.-backed court investigating the 2005 car bomb that killed Hariri and 22 others, began hearing closing arguments.
The municipality of Ghobeiri, south of Beirut, recently renamed a street leading up to the Rafik Hariri National Hospital after one of his accused assassins.
Photographs spread across social media this week depicting "the Martyr Mustafa Baddredine Street," in honor of a leading member of Hizbullah who was killed fighting in Syria in 2016.
Badreddine is believed to be the alleged mastermind of the blast that killed Hariri, and was indicted by the tribunal but never tried.
Reacting to the street name, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Rafik's son, said Tuesday: "This is civil strife, par excellence, at a time when we're talking about eliminating discord."
Ghobeiri lies in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, where support for Hizbullah is strong.
The Ghobeiri municipality says it submitted a request to the interior ministry one year ago to rename the street as is required by law, but that the lack of a response from the ministry within a month indicated tacit approval.
It insists its decision was "legal, normal, and legitimate."
The interior ministry announced on Monday it rejected the municipality honoring "one of the main people accused" of killing Hariri.
It said it would demand the street signs be removed. They were still up on Tuesday, according to an AFP photographer.
Backers of Hizbullah were posting on Twitter in support of the Ghobeiri municipality, with the Arabic hashtag "Badreddine, even your name terrorizes them."
Opponents said the move was a "provocation," 13 years after Hariri's assassination.
"This is just throwing salt on the wound," one user said.
Saad Hariri was reappointed prime minister in May for a third term, but has failed so far to pull together a cabinet of ministers.
Despite prosecutors pointing the finger at Hizbullah for his father's killing, Hariri has repeatedly insisted that Lebanon's interest lies in consensus, not conflict.
Hizbullah has denied involvement in Rafik's assassination and has slammed the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as illegitimate.