March 12, 2014
Hezbollah says commander killed in Beirut, blames Israel
A Hezbollah commander who fought in Syria's civil war was shot dead outside his home in Lebanon today in an attack which the militant Shi'ite group blamed on Israel.
Israel denied any role in the killing of Hassan al-Laqqis, who was shot from close range by a silenced gun as he arrived home at around midnight in the Hadath district of Beirut, a source close to Hezbollah said.
Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, also sent fighters into neighbouring Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, an intervention which helped to raise sectarian tension in Lebanon.
A previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on Twitter. The claim could not be verified but the name of the purported group suggested Lebanese Sunni Muslim connections.
Footage from the scene broadcast by Hezbollah's Al Manar television on Wednesday showed two bullet marks in a wall and muddy footprints it said had been left by possibly more than one assailant.
Hezbollah described Laqqis, who will be buried in Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley later in the day, as "one of the leaders of the Islamic resistance" against Israel who had been frequently targeted by the Jewish state.
He had been with Hezbollah since it was set up with Iranian support in the 1980s to fight Israeli troops occupying south Lebanon. His son was killed in the 2006 war, Hezbollah said in a statement.
"The Israeli enemy tried to get to our martyr brother several times, in more than one location, but these attempts failed until this repugnant assassination," it said.
Israel would "bear full responsibility and all the consequences for this heinous crime", it said.
But Israel denied involvement. "This has strictly nothing to do Israel," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
"Hezbollah has made a fool of itself in the past with these automatic and groundless accusations against Israel ... If they are looking for explanations as to what is happening to them, they should examine their own actions."