The Day In Israel: Tuesday Aug 10th, 2010

As promised, Hizbullah arch terrorist Hassan Nasrallah presented in a televised speech “proof” that Israel was behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

He fell woefully short.

Hassan Nasrallah

AP

An extensive history of Israeli espionage and reconnaissance activities was unveiled to the public on Monday by the leader of Hizbullah, who demanded that the government form a committee to study information that he said should be investigated as part of the probe  into former Premier Rafik Hariri’s killing.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a two-hour presentation of the information during a news conference in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where some 150 members of the media gathered to watch him via video link.

Nasrallah disclosed that in 1997, the resistance intercepted Israeli transmissions from its aerial reconnaissance aircraft, and he aired a series of excerpts of this footage, predating Hariri’s February 14, 2005, killing.

The footage was divided into three sections: it covered extensive shots of the area between the St. George Club, where Hariri was killed by a truck bomb, and the late premier’s residence in Qoreitem, with repeated shots of turns in the road along Corniche al-Manara. Nasrallah said the footage indicated that the Israelis were likely studying methods of carrying out bombings and assassinations, since official motorcades slow down at such turns.

The footage included shots of what Nasrallah said was Hariri’s path to his vacation residence in Faqra, Kesrouan, as well as the city of Sidon, with a focus on the residence of his brother, Shafik.

“And there are no Hizbullah centers or homes of officials in these areas,” he said.

Nasrallah added that the resistance had begun assembling the footage only in the last two years, from an accumulated store of material, and hadn’t had time to compile similar excerpts of Israeli reconnaissance around the areas frequented by other politicians who were assassinated in the wake of Hariri’s killing.

“This isn’t definitive proof,” he said, “but it opens up new horizons for the investigations.”

Nasrallah added that the aerial reconnaissance footage was necessarily incomplete, because the resistance was unable to crack some of its encoding.

“Just because we don’t have footage of [a given location], doesn’t mean the Israelis didn’t take pictures of it,” he said.

The secretary general said his party wouldn’t present the evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, since he had “no trust” in the body, but expressed his hope that the Lebanese government would act on it.

He added that if the STL ignored the material, “it will confirm our logic, that it’s politicized.”

Nasrallah said other information held by Hizbullah would remain secret for now, but could become public if the need arose.

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Nasrallah began the news conference by detailing Israel’s attempts, as far back as the mid-1990s, to plant the notion that Hizbullah intended to assassinate Hariri, and aired the confessions of an Israeli agent, Ahmad Nasrallah, who succeeded in convincing members of Hariri’s security detail that this was the case.

The Syrians, he said, took the information so seriously that they arrested Salameh, a Hizbullah operative, causing Nasrallah to lobby Syria’s then-senior intelligence figure in Lebanon, General Ghazi Kenaan, for his release.

Ahmad Nasrallah was later arrested on suspicion of being an Israeli agent, but released by the Lebanese judiciary in 2000, prior to the liberation of the south, and then fled to Israel, where Hizbullah’s leader said he was still active in recruiting agents.

Nasrallah also aired brief footage of half-a-dozen suspected Israeli agents, all Lebanese, and highlighted information obtained during their interrogations. More than 150 suspected agents have been rounded up in 2009 and

One suspect, Philipos Sader, was tasked with monitoring President Michel Sleiman and army commander General Jean Kahwaji. Nasrallah said Sader was tasked with focusing on Sleiman’s residence in Amsheet, Jbeil, and gathering information about Kahwaji’s yacht.

“If Syria, or Hizbullah, were found to be gathering such information, what would have happened?” he asked rhetorically.

Other alleged agents, Nasrallah continued, had confessed to gathering information about the movements of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.

The case of Mahmoud Rafeh, the agent who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, covered the planting of bombs in Naameh in 1999 and Zahrani in 2005. The latter incident, which saw the discovery and dismantling of the explosive, could have been an unsuccessful attempt to kill Speaker Nabih Berri.

Nasrallah raised the case of Ghassan Jidd, an Israeli agent who he said fled the country in 2009, three years after the resistance alerted the authorities to his suspicious movements. He said the resistance had evidence that Jidd was in the St. George area on February 13, 2005, a day before Hariri’s killing, but declined to describe the evidence, vowing to submit it to any concerned body.

Nasrallah’s news conference sought to highlight the fact that Israeli agents have carried out a wide range of tasks, such as helping Israeli operatives and commandos enter and exit the country, usually by sea. He urged that the sum total of Israeli espionage committee be gathered by a semi-official or official body and “mapped out,” to get a sense of the scope of this activity.

If you have time to kill (pardon the phrase), you can view Nasrallah’s desperate ranting below.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Needless to say, Israel has dismissed the accusations.

The Foreign Ministry responded to accusations by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who said Israel was involved in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Foreign Ministry said Nasrallah’s accusation was a “ridiculous lie”.

As has former Lebanese President Amin al-Jumayyil:

Former Lebanese President Amin al-Jumayyil expressed doubt regarding “evidence” put forth by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah regarding Israel’s involvement in the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

“The data displayed by Nasrallah is insufficient in and of itself. These are simple, circumstantial testimonies that cannot be relied upon. If the international tribunal has hard evidence, it can move forward with the investigation without delay due to what Nasrallah said,” the known Hezbollah rival told Al-Jazeera in an interview.

Meanwhile, I think it’s pretty clear this is a desperate move by Nasrallah. For a start, he admitted what he presented is not “definite proof.” Furthermore, you have to ask why hadn’t Hizbullah nor Syria accused Israel of being behind the assassination as recently as last week.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:14PM: Other Lebanese leaders are not impressed with Hassan Nasrallah’s “evidence.”

Lebanese leaders appear none too stricken with the “evidence” brought forth by Hezbollah  Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah for Israel’s  involvement in the murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“He didn’t convince anyone except for the production team that prepared his speech yesterday,” said Lebanese MP Mohammad Kabbara, a member of the anti-Hezbollah camp, in a statement.

“If Nasrallah doesn’t trust the international tribunal, we ask the Lebanese people, who is the official or party he is trying to affect with this take on the assassination he’s marketing?”

Other officials in Beirut said Nasrallah’s “evidence” was solely circumstantial, and therefore inadmissible.

Al-Mustaqbal movement official Mustafa Alloush, also of the anti-Hezbollah camp, said that “DNA and fingerprints are material evidence, but what Nasrallah displayed were pictures, which count as circumstantial”.

“A criminal investigation team is the only authority that can rule whether the pictures he showed are real and important, or not,” Alloush added.

The general coordinator of March 14, MP Fares Soueid, said the speech hurt Nasrallah’s reputation. “Next time there is a similar speech, I will wait for the next day to read about it in the paper,” he scoffed.

“The press conference was not worthy of a man with such prestige and the secretary-general of an organization. It served neither him nor Hezbollah. The only convincing move will be his handing over everything in his possession to the international tribunal.”

7:50PM: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Israel: Take responsibility for having killed civilians aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Aussie Dave to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu: Who the hell named you?

7:45PM: Ashton Kutcher in the Holy Land: upsetting the moonbats.

6:12PM: Lebanon is not happy about the suspension of $100 million in US aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces in the wake of last week’s border attack on IDF soldiers, but the Iranians have offered to help.

Iran has offered support to Lebanon’s army, a week after a deadly cross-border clash between Lebanon and Israel which prompted U.S. lawmakers to block funding to the Lebanese military.

The offer from Iran, which supports Lebanon’s militant Shi’ite group Hezbollah, could fuel Western concern that Tehran is increasing its influence near Israel’s northern border.

Israel said it had complained to Washington and Paris about funding provided to the Lebanese army after Lebanese soldiers killed a senior Israeli officer in a rare border skirmish that also left two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist dead.

Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon met Lebanese army chief Jean Kahwaji on Monday and said Tehran was ready to “cooperate with the Lebanese army in any area that would help the military in performing its national role in defending Lebanon”.

2:56PM: Interesting comments on the Nasrallah speech by a Lebanese blogger.

– Sayyed Nasrallah looked like didn’t have good sleep. He appeared drawn and exhausted.

– Sayyed Nasrallah did not present a convincing reason for why it took them so long to produce this presentation. He blamed time-consuming technical difficulties, but I don’t think anyone will buy that.

– In general, I found that the presentation was targeting emotions more than intellect. The entire thesis can be summarized in the phrase: “The Israelis are very evil. They are capable and motivated to Kill PM Hariri”. The dramatic background music, dark blurry footage and mug shots only add to the sinister image Sayyed Nasrallah wanted to project about the Israelis. This is similar to a prosecutor painting a very dark picture of a defendant’s character during a trial.

– It is not clear how much Sayyed Nasrallah will allow access to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to the material he presented. I think the burden of proof falls on Hezbollah to prove that the aerial footage was authentic, but they can always claim that the footage was hacked and is of a “sensitive” nature.

– I found the aim of the presentation was not to prove that the Israelis killed P.M Rafik Hariri, but to plant a seed of doubts in the heads of a specific segment of Arabs and Lebanese. Namely arabist Sunnis who are predisposed to blaming Israel, and who so far have been sticking to the side of the Hariri family’s version of events. I think in that respect, the presentation could have made inroads into impressionable souls.

– The point which I found most valid was this: Why didn’t the STL investigate Israeli spies who were proven to be operating around the time of Hariri’s killing? In other words, why was the STL so uninterested in the Israel line of investigation? The STL could still provide a conclusive answer to that question, but like I said, the aim of the presentation was to plant doubt in the heads of Arab viewers.

– In general, I was underwhelmed. I did not get out of this learning anything new, and I’m very interested to see the reactions in tomorrows newspapers.

2:46PM: That’s no way to treat your granny!

2:40PM: Here is more on Gaza’s newly opened Crazy Water Park, named since it is crazy just indicative of a concentration camp the place is.

While the audio is in Hebrew, you should have no trouble working out the levels of hardship being depicted.

2:26PM: Sorry for the site being offline for a number of hours today. As my host explained:

For some reason Plesk thought you went way over your bandwidth and suspended your site. I just re-activated your site and will investigate why the software did this.

Meanwhile, I am paying a fair bit for the hosting of the site. If you appreciate what I do and you’d like to contribute, please click here:

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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