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    Lebanon Tag

    We noted previously the Senior Hezbollah commander assassinated, Hassan Laqqis. Hezbollah immediately blamed Israel. It certainly makes sense when you consider how professionally it was carried out. Unlike the Jihadis who blow up cars or themselves, the Laqquis hit was carried out precisely and using silenced weapons. The hit men (or women?) got into a heavily secured area without notice, and located their target late at night. There must have been precise intelligence not only as to his location, but his movements. Even more impressively, the gunmen escaped without being captured. There must have been help to get them away from the scene, and likely out of the country, before Hezbollah security woke up to what had happened. So we are talking minutes to get out of the area, and hours to get out of the country. While we cannot eliminate that the hit was carried out by Jihadis or some other intelligence service, it seems unlikely. Foreign Policy magazine had an article asserting that Laqqis was on Israel's Kill List:
    There'll be a summit conference in the sky," smiled an Israeli intelligence official Wednesday morning when he learned of the assassination of Hassan Lakkis, the Hezbollah commander in charge of weapons development and advanced technological warfare, in a Beirut suburb around midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The killing of Lakkis is yet another in the latest in a long series of assassinations of leading figures in what Israeli intelligence calls the "Radical Front," which comprises two countries -- Syria and Iran -- and three organizations: Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas....

    Just one day after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a gloating television interview about the triumph of the Iranian nuclear deal, the former head of Hezbollah's rocket forces, someone involved in procuring arms from Iran, and a close associate of Nasrallah was assassinated outside his home in Beirut. Via Times of Israel:
    Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah on Wednesday accused Israel of assassinating a top operative outside his home overnight. A statement released by Hezbollah said Hassan al-Laqis was killed near his house in Beirut as he was coming home from work. Laqis was at one point one of the main commanders of Hezbollah’s rocket division, which fired hundreds of missiles at Israel. According to reports in the Lebanese media, Israel tried to assassinate him during the 2006 Second Lebanon War and failed. A statement released by Hezbollah said Hassan al-Laqis was killed near his house in Beirut as he was coming home from work. Laqis was at one point one of the main commanders of Hezbollah’s rocket division, which fired hundreds of missiles at Israel. According to reports in the Lebanese media, Israel tried to assassinate him during the 2006 Second Lebanon War and failed.
    Via WaPo:
    Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that Israel was involved, the Associated Press reported. “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.” The commander was shot five times in the head and neck, the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper reported, citing an unidentified security official. Hezbollah said Laqees had spent his life serving the “resistance” against Israel and lost a son during the group’s 2006 war with Israel. He was previously the target of several failed assassination attempts, it said.
    The Daily Star of Lebanon reports an unknown Sunni jihadist group claimed responsibility:

    In an interview airing now on Lebanese OTV television, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah discusses the Iranian nuclear deal (summary translation via NOW Lebanon):
    The Iran nuclear deal has significant repercussions. The region’s peoples are the biggest winners from this deal because regional and international forces have been pushing for war with Iran which would have had dangerous repercussions in the region. The deal pushed off the [potential Israeli and US] war [against Iran]. Israel cannot possibly bomb nuclear facilities without the US’ green light. Monopoly of power is no longer present. All American wars have failed. John Kerry made it clear that the US does not want more wars. The US and Europe have failed in the region. It is unlikely that normalization will take place. Iranians wanted to reassure the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. [interview in progress, check link for more]
    More translation at Naharnet:

    There was a double suicide bombing targeting the Iranian Embassy in Beirut earlier today. There are at least 25 dead, including one diplomat. An al-Qaeda linked group is claiming credit, but the Iranians are blaming Israel. The bobming is assumed to be in retaliation for Iran's involvement in...

    We predicted this would happen when Hezbollah intervened on behalf of Assad in Syria, including the conquest of Qusayr, and the ongoing battles in Homs and Aleppo. Hezbollah's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, openly bragged that Hezbollah was in Syria to the bitter end. The death toll is rising at this writing, so keep track at the Twitter feed at the bottom of the post. From The Daily Star of Lebanon, Car bomb kills 10 in Beirut southern suburb:
    A car bomb killed at least 10 people in the southern suburb of Beirut Thursday, a stronghold of Hezbollah, security sources told The Daily Star. The sources said at least 30 people were also wounded in the blast on the main road between Rwais and Bir al-Abed, a neighborhood of the southern suburb that in July was the target of a similar car explosion. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel confirmed that the blast was the result of car explosion. TV footage showed scores of residents screaming while trying to flee the carnage with dozens of cars in flames and other extensive damage in the area. Emergency response teams rushed to the scene of the blast that caused thick plumes of smoke to fill the sky over the Lebanese capital. Over 50 people were wounded on July 9 after a car bomb ripped through the Bir al-Abed neighborhood of the southern suburb of Beirut, in an incident widely linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria.
    NOW Lebanon has live coverage. Car Bomb Beirut NOW Lebanon screen shot https://twitter.com/RT_com/status/368047408308944896 https://twitter.com/yesimcf/status/368049589481263104

    The last in my series of posts from Israel: After leaving the Valley of Tears battle monument, we descended from the Golan Heights towards Israel's northernmost town, Metula. But along the way, we stopped at the Druze town of Mas'ade for lunch at the Nedal Restaurant.  Here's the view towards Mount Hermon (lost then recaptured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War) from in front of the restaurant: [caption id="attachment_60845" align="alignnone" width="501"](Mas'ade Druze Village Israel, looking towards Mount Hermon) (Mas'ade Druze Village Israel, looking towards Mount Hermon)[/caption] You can see on this map how far north Metula is: [caption id="attachment_60711" align="alignnone" width="505"](Metula, Israel - Map View) (Metula, Israel - Map View)[/caption] These map view give a good perspective on how Metula is surrounded on three sides by Lebanon: [caption id="attachment_60710" align="alignnone" width="464"](Metula, Israel - Street Map View) (Metula, Israel - Street Map View)[/caption]

    Many weeks ago we suggested that one outcome of Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Assad, particularly the conquest of Qusayr, would be car bombings in pro-Hezbollah sections of Beirut. That prediction appears to be coming true. Via The Daily Star of Lebanon: A...

    I don't know that @jeanassy says in these tweets, but it must have been really "good." Lebanese blogger questioned police tweets Assy, who describes himself as a web developer, allegedly is a supporter of the Free Patriotic Movement of Michael Aoun, which is part of the governing coalition along with Hezbollah and other parties. Via the Lebanese website Naharnet:
    A Lebanese blogger has been questioned by the Internal Security Forces for his insulting tweets and not as reported for criticizing President Michel Suleiman. A careful examination of Jean Assy's twitter account reveals swearing and name-calling against Suleiman which go beyond society's morals and ethics. Defamation is a crime according to Lebanon’s penal code. The image grab of his twitter account published above and which shows his immoral tweets, is aimed at putting an end to the political reactions made by some parties under the excuse of defending freedom of expression. In reality his tweets are morally degrading and do not fall under the framework of freedoms. Politicians and not only the judiciary have a duty to preserve the post of the president out of respect for social values. Assy was on Tuesday briefly seized by the ISF's Office to Combat Cyber Crimes to question him on the series of tweets he has made. No charges were brought against him. “Some people are attacking me for the "insults" I wrote, while I'm pretty sure they say things even worse about the president and others offline,” he has said in one tweet.
    Al-Akhbar English further reports:
    Jean Assy said he was summoned to the cyber crimes office in Beirut and questioned over Tweets calling the head of state an “akrout,” which roughly translates to “hooligan” or “delinquent.” “I was called in for an investigation. I didn’t know it was about bashing the president. So I came today and was shocked to learn that it was about tweets I made a few months ago,” he told Al-Akhbar shortly after his release. According to him the investigation lasted for about an hour, but he was then held for another 4-5 hours before meeting with a judge. The judge asked him to sign a document vowing not to criticize the presidency, and then released him without charge.
    Here's an interview with Assy, if anyone can translate, that would be great: Here are Assy's explanations in English on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeanassy/status/347005962026090496

    By most accounts, Hezbollah's large-scale intervention combined with unending supplies of weapons and advisors from Iran and Russia have helped Assad turn the tide against the rebels. Until that intervention, and even in the initial weeks, it looked like the rebels would hold on in Qusayr after inflicting...

    I mentioned the other day how the fight in Syria wasn't going quite as easily as many predicted for Hezbollah, with it suffering heavy losses even trying to take a modestly-sized border city, Will Qusayr be Hezbollah’s Stalingrad? As of the latest reports, rebels are still in control of parts of al-Qusayr, but the situation is very murky with pro-Assad sources proclaiming victory and anti-Assad forces denying.  Hezbollah officials are quoted as admitting the fight is much tougher than expected, and today saw round-the-clock shelling of the city. (video added) Against that backdrop, Hezbollah's leader proclaimed that it was in the fight in Syria to the bitter end, as reported by The NY Times, Hezbollah Leader Orders Full Fight to Save Assad:
    The leader of the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Saturday decisively committed his followers to an all-out battle in Syria to salvage the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, saying that Hezbollah was fighting abroad to “immunize” Lebanon from an Israeli invasion he said would surely follow if Syrian rebels prevailed. “It is our battle, and we are up to it,” the leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared, in his most direct embrace yet of a fight in Syria that Hezbollah can no longer hide now that dozens of its fighters have fallen recently in and around the strategic Syrian town of Qusayr. Outgunned Syrian rebels have held on for a week there against a frontal assault by Hezbollah and Syrian forces.

    The speech was delivered via videotape on the 13th anniversary of the end of Israel’s 15-year occupation of southern Lebanon after years of battling Hezbollah’s guerrillas, which the group considers its greatest victory. Mr. Nasrallah seemed to be preparing his followers for the heavy price in lives and political capital that the organization could pay as it embarks on an unprecedented intervention in a neighboring country, a move that could deeply destabilize Lebanon.

    The Lebanese website Naharnet reports:
    On his party's involvement in the battles alongside Assad's forces, he said: “A political and economic world war was launched on Syria and thousands of fighters were sent without anyone complaining.” “Meanwhile, Hizbullah's involvement was considered a foreign interference,” he noted. Nasrallah explained that Syria is the resistance's backbone: “We cannot stand still and let the break the resistance's main supporter.” Nasrallah said Hizbullah fighters joining the war in Syria are not forced “go willingly and aspire to take part in the resistance.” “You will find tens of thousands of fighters that are ready to take all fronts and participate in the battles. No one is forced into the war,” he assured.
    The leader of the Lebanese Sunni opposition, Saad Hariri, mocked Nasrallah's speech,

    One of the key battles in Syria is for control of Qusayr, currently under rebel control.  Via NY Times, Syrian Forces and Hezbollah Fighters Press Assault on Key City: Official Syrian and Hezbollah news outlets said the government offensive was making rapid headway in retaking Qusayr, a strategically...

    From The Daily Star in Lebanon, one of the best websites for news about what's happening there and in Syria, Three Hezbollah fighters, 12 Syrian rebels killed in clashes: Three Hezbollah fighters and 12 Syrian rebels were killed in fierce battles near Syria’s border with Lebanon,...

    Like I said Friday, the fuse has been lit.  I think it's too late for Assad to put it out without a major blow up. Now the Arab League, in an unprecedented move, has imposed economic sanctions on Syria, including travel bans on senior officials and...

    This week in 1983 Iranian backed Shiites bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 299 Marines and French soldiers. The Marines had been sent as part of an international peacekeeping force in the wake of the Lebanese civil war.  Iranian-backed Shiites who later formed Hezbollah...

    The head of Hezbollah has visited Syria to discuss "reforms":Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in order to discuss reforms in Syria, the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, identified with Hezbollah, reported on Monday.Nasrallah "held more than one meeting with President Assad to...

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