Hizbullah Commander Assassinated Overnight in Hadath, Israel Denies Involvement and Warns against Attacksإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
A prominent Hizbullah military official was assassinated at midnight on Wednesday near his residence in Hadath in Beirut's southern suburbs.
“Around 12 a.m. Hajj Hassan Hollo al-Laqqis was assassinated near his house in Sainte Thérèse neighborhood in Hadath while he was on his way back from his work,” a statement issued by Hizbullah's press office said.
A party source told Agence France Presse that Laqqis was very close to the party's chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Hizbullah accused in the statement Israel of killing the official, revealing that Laqqis “was repeatedly targeted but that he managed to escape the assassination attempts.”
“Israel is completely held responsibility for this heinous crime,” the statement added.
The party described Laqqis as a “Jihaddist who spent his entire life as a member of the resistance and a leader who adored martyrdom.”
Laqqis' son had passed away during the July 2006 war, according to the statement.
Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) detailed on the incident, saying unknown assailants ambushed Laqqis in his residence's parking lot.
The radio station said that he was still inside his Jeep Cherokee when he was assassinated.
"He was shot 5 times, four bullets in the head and one in the neck, from a nearby distance," VDL said.
LBCI television remarked that the doorman of the building where Laqqis resided said he did not hear any gunshots but instead, the sound of smashing glass.
“He got out to check what was happening and saw the slain man. He then contacted Hizbullah's security agents,” LBCI added.
Later on Wednesday, Israel denied its involvement in Laqqis' assassination.
"Israel has nothing to do with this incident," Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
He pointed out that these “automatic accusations are an innate reflex with Hizbullah,” adding that the party “doesn't need evidence or facts... They just blame anything on Israel.”
Israel's Energy Minister Silvan Shalom reiterated Palmor's denial, telling public radio: "Israel has nothing to do with this.
"Even if we're happy about it, it's the Salafists who have carried it out," Shalom said of extremist Sunni Muslim groups that oppose Hizbullah.
"It's a harsh blow for Hizbullah, which has tried to present the assassination (as Israeli) in order to distract from internal wrangling and divisions in Lebanon brought on by the Syrian" civil war, Shalom said.
Israel also warned Hizbullah against any attack.
"If Hizbullah attacks Israeli territory our response will be firm and painful," Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon was quoted by army radio as saying following the accusations.
Meanwhile, a previously unknown group called “The Brigade of Sunni Freemen in Baalbek” claimed responsibility for Wednesday's assassination.
Another group, the Ansar al-Ummah al-Islamiya Brigade also announced being behind the assassination, holding the Hizbullah official responsible for the "Qusayr massacre" in Syria.
The Wall Street Journal considered Laqqis' assassination a “blow” to Hizbullah and a sign that Lebanon was “further slipping into regional proxy battles and score settling on its territory.”
It quoted a former Israeli intelligence official as saying Laqqis was believed to be the chief of Hizbullah's rocket development.
“According to Fars News Agency Laqqis was in charge of Hizbullah's remote communication and technology network,” the same source added.
“He had an instrumental role in repairing the party's remote communication network after it was damaged in the 2006 war with Israel.”
Speaker Nabih Berri condemned the overnight incident, saying that it bears Israel's hallmark.
“We must remain aware during this time because the enemy is a constant threat to us all,” he added.
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat also commented on the assassination, saying that he condemns political assassinations and all terrorist bombings "in principle."
“The judiciary should take its course in security incidents that have taken place in Lebanon, especially those that have targeted (Beirut's neighborhood of) Dahieh, (the northern city of) Tripoli, and the Iranian embassy,” he remarked in a statement.
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi offered his condolences to Hizbullah chief Nasrallah, considering that the “coward acts of Israel and its agents will only make the resistance insist on achieving its goals.”