Archive for the ‘ Hizbollah ’ Category

Hezbollah leader: Kurdish vote will sow division in region

September 30, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group has warned that a controversial referendum on support for independence in Iraq’s Kurdistan will lead to dividing several countries in the region.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech Saturday night that the referendum held on Monday does not threaten Iraq alone but also Turkey, Syria and Iran, which all have large Kurdish minorities. Iran, Turkey and Syria rejected this week’s symbolic referendum, in which Iraq’s Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence.

Nasrallah said the divisions would also reach other countries in the region including Saudi Arabia, a country that he harshly criticized in his speech. “The responsibility of the Kurds, Iraqi people and concerned counties … is to stand against the beginning of divisions,” Nasrallah said.

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Hezbollah throws weight behind protests, deepening crisis

August 26, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — The powerful Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah threw its weight Tuesday behind mass protests calling for the government’s resignation, deepening a crisis that started over piles of uncollected garbage in the streets of the capital but has tapped into a much deeper malaise.

The explosion of anger targets the endemic corruption, hapless government and sectarian divisions of a brittle country once torn by civil war and now struggling with a wave of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

A grassroots youth movement calling itself “You Stink” mobilized thousands of people in two rallies over the weekend, and has called for another large protest on Saturday. The Hezbollah announcement of support for the protests is likely to fuel concerns the Iranian-backed group will try to hijack a rare, non-political movement for its own political gain.

Hezbollah ministers and their allies walked out of a Cabinet meeting Tuesday meant to discuss the worsening garbage crisis. Prime Minister Tammam Salam called the emergency session after the weekend clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting corruption and poor public services.

The six ministers withdrew four hours into the meeting. Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, whose Free Patriotic Movement is aligned with Hezbollah, said he was pulling out because of the political “theater” surrounding the trash issue.

During the Cabinet session, ministers unanimously rejected the winning bidders to manage Beirut’s trash collection, citing high costs and a bidding procedure some said was questionable. The Cabinet tasked a ministerial committee with restarting the bidding, meaning no imminent solution to the crisis was likely.

Salam suggested dumping the garbage in the remote, impoverished region of Akkar, which has been neglected for decades, in exchange for $100 million in development projects as an incentive. That further riled the protesters. “Akkar is not a garbage dump!” read the slogan on one protester’s T-shirt.

The trash crisis has exacerbated the long-existing fault lines in Lebanon which in recent years have pitted the Iranian-backed Hezbollah against the country’s Western-aligned, pro-Saudi camp. Those divisions mirror the larger regional Shiite-Sunni divide, and have long paralyzed the government.

Although Salam’s government has elements from both camps, Hezbollah regards the prime minister as an ally of Saudi Arabia. The Shiite group’s ally, Christian leader Michel Aoun, has been assailing the prime minister over his handling of Cabinet and security appointments.

In a statement Tuesday, Hezbollah said the garbage crisis reflected the “endemic and accumulated corruption of the past two decades” and policies that only serve “personal and political interests at the expense of citizens.” It said holding peaceful protests was a legitimate right.

A columnist in the daily An-Nahar newspaper accused Hezbollah of exploiting the “You Stink” movement for its own agenda. Tarek Sarhan, a 17-year-old “You Stink” supporter, said there would always be groups that try to manipulate grass-roots movements for their own political gains in a country like Lebanon.

The protesters say they are fed up with leaders they accuse of caring only about lining their own pockets and a system they say ensures incessant bickering and paralysis. They contend the entire trash crisis is about which politicians get the bigger cut from waste management contracts.

Meanwhile, the political paralysis continues. The country’s politicians have been unable to decide on a president, a post reserved for a Christian in a sectarian power-sharing system, for over a year. According to that system, the prime minister must be a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite. The current parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, has been in his post for 23 years.

Parliament has extended its term twice without elections and has been paralyzed because some lawmakers insist a president be elected first. Government has not made any substantial decisions as rival parties bicker over the decision-making process in Cabinet in the absence of a president to preside over the sessions.

Anger about the heaps of trash accumulating in Beirut’s streets boiled over this week, with thousands protesting the government’s failure to deliver basic services. The protests turned violent over the weekend, prompting the government to erect a concrete wall outside its main building to prevent protesters from reaching it.

Within hours, the wall was filled with anti-government graffiti. “State of Shabiha,” one young man scrawled, an Arabic term for thugs. Another drawing showed a man’s body wrapped in a black cloth below a caption that read: “The shroud of the state.”

On Tuesday, authorities began removing the wall, just 24 hours after it was installed. “They won’t fool us by removing the wall,” said Sarhan, the You Stink supporter. “Remove it or not, we don’t care. We want… an end to sectarianism. We want to build a state,” he said.

“This is a corrupt government, an immoral government that is starving us and conspiring against the people,” said Hassan Qatayesh, who suffered an injured jaw when he was struck by rocks during Saturday’s protest.

“They raised the wall to protect themselves from the people, thinking that this wall will prevent our voices from reaching them. But our voices are louder than walls, tear gas and rubber bullets.”

Hezbollah leader slams Saudi intervention in Yemen

March 27, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group unleashed a tirade against Saudi Arabia on Friday over its intervention in Yemen, calling it “surprising and painful,” and suggesting Riyadh would suffer a “humiliating defeat” if it didn’t resolve the conflict through negotiations.

Hassan Nasrallah rejected Riyadh’s claim that it had assembled a coalition to conduct airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels in order to save Yemen, an operation named “Decisive Storm.” He said that since Israel was created in 1948 “there has been no decisive storm or even a decisive breeze” to help the Palestinians.

Hezbollah, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels, is supported by Iran, which Saudi Arabia views as its main regional rival. Iran has openly armed and assisted Hezbollah since its creation, but both Iran and the Houthis deny it has sent arms to the Yemeni rebels.

“The real reason (for the war) is that Saudi Arabia lost its control and dominance in Yemen and the aim of war is to restore control and hegemony over Yemen. Period,” Nasrallah said. He condemned what he called a “Saudi-American aggression on Yemen, its people, army, installations, present and future.” The Hezbollah leader called for a political solution in Yemen, warning Saudi Arabia that it will not win the war.

“Throughout history, invaders were defeated and the invaders were humiliated,” Nasrallah said. “The rulers in Saudi Arabia still have an opportunity in order not to face a humiliating defeat.” Nasrallah said the countries taking part in the military campaign should review their policies. “Should the region go to war because of Saudi money?” he asked.

In some of his harshest comments to date, Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of sending suicide attackers to Iraq and of creating the Islamic State group. Addressing Saudi Arabia, he said Iran had expanded its influence in the region because “you are lazy, losers, and you don’t take responsibility.”

Hezbollah sends message to Israel ‘conflict is over’

2015-01-29

By John Davison and Laurent Lozano

Jerusalem

Israel on Thursday buried two soldiers killed in a Hezbollah missile strike that triggered Israeli fire on southern Lebanon, raising tensions between the bitter enemies to their highest in years.

But the Israeli-Lebanese border was calm, as officials in the Jewish state played down the threat of a new war with Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shiite militant group.

In a rare such declaration, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Hezbollah had passed on a message through the United Nations peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon, UNIFIL, saying it did not want a further escalation.

“We have received a message… that, from their point of view, the incident is over,” he told public radio.

Analysts say neither side seems keen for a repeat of the devastating Israel-Hezbollah conflict of 2006 and that any response is likely to be limited.

The two soldiers were killed Wednesday when Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at a convoy in an Israeli-occupied area on the border with Lebanon.

Israeli forces responded to the attack — which came in retaliation for an Israeli strike on the Golan Heights that killed senior Hezbollah members — with artillery, tank and air fire on several villages in southern Lebanon.

There were no reports of Lebanese casualties, but a 36-year-old Spanish peacekeeper with UNIFIL was killed in the exchange of fire.

– Mourners gather in Jerusalem –

In Israel, schools reopened on Thursday, as did Mount Hermon ski resort in the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights.

In the Lebanese border village of Majidiya, residents collected spent artillery shells from Wednesday’s strikes.

At the local UN base a blackened concrete tower could be seen with part of its wall blown out, and a Spanish flag flew at half-mast.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem for the burial of 25-year-old Captain Yochai Kalangel.

Sobbing relatives greeted mourners, many wearing the purple beret of Kalangel’s Givati (Highland) Brigade.

There was a similar turnout for the other soldier killed, 20-year-old Staff Sergeant Dor Chaim Nini, buried in the town of Shtulim in south-central Israel.

Questions have been raised in Israel about why they were travelling in unarmored vehicles in the volatile area.

Israel said it considered Wednesday’s attack the “most severe” since 2006, when war with Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attack on Iran.

“This is the same Iran that is now trying to achieve an agreement, via the major powers, that would leave it with the ability to develop nuclear weapons,” he said.

Israel has threatened military action to stop arch-foe Iran obtaining atomic weapons. Tehran insists its program is only for civilian purposes.

Netanyahu held talks with top security brass late Wednesday, warning afterwards: “Those behind today’s attack will pay the full price.”

– Chances of war ‘very slim’ –

Still, analysts said Israel, fresh from a summer war with Hamas in Gaza and heading for a general election in March, was not eager for a full-scale conflict.

“Hezbollah has 100,000 rockets, compared with the 10,000 of Hamas,” the Palestinian Islamist group which controls Gaza, said analyst Boaz Ganor of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.

“The human cost of such a war would be enormous, and no Israeli leader will be pro-active in this direction,” he said.

As for Hezbollah, it is deeply involved in Syria’s civil war, fighting with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against mostly Sunni rebels.

“Hezbollah is very busy in Syria; the last thing that it needs is a second front,” Yaakov Amidror, a former major general, said.

On the Lebanese side, Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi said the government had “received assurances from major countries that Israel won’t escalate the military situation, and that yesterday’s response was enough… for the time being.”

Tension in the area had been building since an Israeli air strike on the Syrian-controlled sector of the Golan killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general on January 18.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah — who is to deliver an address on Friday — had earlier threatened retaliation for Israel’s repeated strikes inside Syria.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=69940.

Hezbollah suffers heavy losses in clashes with jihadists

2014-10-06

BAALBEK – Eight fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement were killed in clashes with jihadists in an area on the border with Syria, a Hezbollah source said on Monday.

The source revised an earlier toll of five dead for Sunday’s attack by jihadists on a Hezbollah post and clashes that followed.

The early morning attack targeted the post in mountains around the town of Nabi Sbat, east of Baalbek on the border with Syria.

The source said “dozens” of jihadists were killed in the assault, which Lebanon’s National News Agency said was launched from Assal al-Ward in Syria’s Qalamun province.

Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, claimed involvement in the attack on one of its official Twitter accounts on Monday.

The group said its fighters “launched an attack from Assal” on the Hezbollah post.

“More than 11 of them were killed and their weapons seized,” it added, posting photos it said were of dead Hezbollah fighters.

Lebanon’s border with Syria is not officially defined and much of it is porous and unpatrolled, with local residents, smugglers and others moving freely across it.

Hezbollah maintains several military posts along inaccessible parts of the border, and it rarely gives official details on clashes with jihadists or other fighters.

The clashes come two months after jihadists from the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra attacked Lebanese security forces in Arsal, which also lies on the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon.

The jihadists withdrew into the mountains around Arsal after a ceasefire, but took with them around 30 soldiers and policemen as hostages.

Three of them have since been executed, contributing to rising anxiety in Lebanon over the encroachment of jihadists and spillover from the more than three-year-old war in Syria.

Hezbollah has dispatched fighters to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s troops against an uprising that many of Lebanon’s Sunnis support.

The conflict has exacerbated existing tensions in Lebanon, and made Hezbollah and its strongholds of support a target for extremists who have detonated bombs in several areas.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=68354.

Hezbollah commander killed in Iraq

July 31, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Officials say a commander with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah was killed in Iraq.

The Lebanese officials, close to the Shiite Hezbollah, say Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haj was killed during the past week while on a “jihadi mission” without providing further details. It is the first known Hezbollah death in Iraq since Sunni extremists captured large parts of the country north and west of Baghdad in June.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Iraqi officials have said that a handful of advisers from Hezbollah are offering front-line guidance to Iraqi Shiite militias fighting jihadi militants north of Baghdad.

Hezbollah fighters openly joined Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces last year in a decision that has fueled sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Possible culprits in Hezbollah commander’s killing

December 04, 2013

Senior Hezbollah commander Hassan al-Laqis was assassinated early Wednesday in southern Beirut — a sharp blow to the Iranian-backed Shiite group. Hezbollah has no shortage of rivals eager to strike at its strongholds and leadership:

— ISRAEL: Hezbollah quickly blamed Israel for al-Laqis’ assassination, saying it had tried to kill him several times already. Israeli officials denied the accusations. Still, the Jewish state could view the fallout from Hezbollah’s armed intervention in Syria — and the long list of enemies it has created — as cover to move against a senior figure.

Enmity runs deep between Israel and Hezbollah. The Lebanese group waged an insurgency against the nearly 20-year Israeli military occupation of southern Lebanon before Israel withdrew in 2000. The Israelis have killed — or have been suspected of killing — high-ranking Hezbollah figures for decades. In 1992, Israeli helicopter gunships ambushed the motorcade of Hezbollah leader Sheik Abbas Musawi, killing him, his wife, his son and four bodyguards. Eight years earlier, Hezbollah leader Sheik Ragheb Harb was killed in south Lebanon. But one of the biggest blows came in 2008 when Imad Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah commander, was killed by a bombing in Damascus.

— SAUDI ARABIA: Al-Laqis’ killing came shortly after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, speaking to a TV station, accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the Nov. 19 suicide bombings at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. He indirectly blamed an alliance between Iran rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia for trying to strike at Hezbollah, which is Tehran’s proxy in Lebanon. The allegations spotlighted the Syrian civil war’s sectarian overtones and regional impact. Riyadh backs the predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels in Syria, while regional Shiite power Iran and Hezbollah support Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime is stacked with members of his heterodox sect of Shiite Islam. Saudi Arabia fears what it sees as Iran trying to spread its influence across the Arab world. Under this thinking, a Saudi strike against Hezbollah would be a blow to Iran and its regional ambitions. The kingdom does not however have a known history of sponsoring assassinations.

— AL-QAIDA-LINKED GROUPS: Sunni extremists linked to al-Qaida are staunch opponents of Hezbollah. One such Lebanese group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the Iranian Embassy attack and said more would follow unless Hezbollah withdrew its fighters from Syria. Extremists and al-Qaida-affiliated factions increasingly dominate the messy mosaic of Syrian rebels. Al-Qaida fighters, whose extreme interpretation of Islam considers Shiites to be apostates whose blood may be shed, have attacked Shiites elsewhere, particularly Iraq, in the past decade. Al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria have proven to be among the most effective in fighting Assad, and they have claimed responsibility for most of the suicide bombings in the war.

— SYRIAN REBELS: Syrian rebels have been threatening Hezbollah since the group sent fighters to Syria. Two previously unknown Sunni groups claimed responsibility for al-Laqis’ assassination, although the claims could not be verified. Since Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria began, its strongholds have been targeted by rockets and car bombings in apparent retaliation.

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