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Daily News Analysis

International tribunal clears Hizbullah of any involvement in Hariri assassination

Ayman Ahmed

After years of vicious propaganda against Hizbullah accusing it of involvement in Rafik Hariri’s assassination, the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) delivered its verdict on August 18.

It cleared Hizbullah and the Syrian government of involvement in the February 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

This was a slap on the face of the US and Israel that had for 15 years proclaimed from every dung heap that Hizbullah was responsible for Hariri’s assassination.

The Special Tribunal, established in 2007, issued its verdict at a court near The Hague in the Netherlands.

The verdict was delivered by the presiding judge, David Re.

Under US-Israeli-French pressure, the court in 2011 had accused Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra and Hussein Hassan Oneissi of the killing.

Two years later, a fifth person, Hassan Habib Merhi, was added to the list of suspects.

From the very beginning, Hizbullah denied any involvement, pointing to the political motives of its accusers.

It had nothing to gain from Hariri’s killing and the ensuing chaos.

All five men were alleged to be members of Hizbullah but the resistance movement refused to hand them over to the court.

Hariri was killed together with 21 other people in February 2005 as his motorcade traveled through the busy streets of Beirut.

A powerful bomb blew up his car and several others resulting in mass casualties.

It was evident the attack would plunge Lebanon into another crisis. Only Lebanon’s—and Hizbullah’s—enemies wanted the country engulfed in turmoil.

Amid wild allegations against Damascus, Syrian forces that had been deployed in Lebanon for more than 40 years, were forced to withdraw from the country.

This clearly benefitted Israel that had demanded Syrian troop withdrawal for years.

In 2016, one of the accused, Badreddine, was killed in Syria. Informed observers are convinced that the murder was carried out by Israel’s spy agency, Mossad.

The Zionist regime has a long history of targeted assassinations.

Imad Mughniyeh, one of the leading commanders of Hizbullah, was assassinated in Damascus on February 12, 2008.

Even the Washington Post admitted that it was a joint CIA-Mossad operation.

The tribunal found only Salim Ayyash “guilty” of the murder; all other defendants were acquitted.

It found no evidence against them.

Regarding the involvement of Hizbullah or Syria, the tribunal concluded that although “Syria and Hizbullah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri and his political allies… there is no evidence that the Hizbullah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement.”

Saad Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri and himself the prime minister until his ouster last October, had banked on the tribunal to deliver a “guilty” verdict against Hizbullah.

When it turned out differently, he was left with no choice but to state that he accepted the verdict.

Even so, he still clung to the fiction that Hizbullah must “assume responsibility”.

How and why, he did not explain but said, “I think everybody’s expectation was much higher than what came out, but I believe that the tribunal came out with a result that is satisfying.”

Saad Hariri’s statements are contradictory. He claims that “everybody’s expectation was much higher than what came out,” yet he also accepted that the result that came out is “satisfying”.

So, which is it? And how can he prejudge that everybody’s expectation was much higher, and why?

The younger Hariri has clearly been left shell shocked and confused.

His American, French and Israeli masters had given him assurances that the tribunal would deliver a guilty verdict against Hizbullah.

In the end, even a Western-created tribunal could not find any evidence against Hizbullah.

One must give credit to the tribunal judges. They showed integrity in not succumbing to political pressure.

It seems they went by the legal rules and delivered the verdict that they did.

So, the question remains: who was responsible?

Israel is clearly one of the suspects, as Patrick Seale wrote in the Guardian on February 23, 2005.

“Israel’s ambition has long been to weaken Syria, sever its strategic alliance with Iran and destroy Hezbollah. Israel has great experience at ‘targeted assassinations’, not only in the Palestinian territories but across the Middle East. Over the years, it has sent hit teams to kill opponents in Beirut, Tunis, Malta, Amman, and Damascus,” wrote Seale.

There is also evidence that Israeli drones had been tracking Rafik Hariri’s movements for several days prior to his assassination.

They were hovering over his motorcade even the day he was killed. What were they doing?

Hariri’s assassination delivered one tangible benefit to Israel: the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

Immediately the campaign to target and tarnish Hizbullah also began. In this, the Zionists and their American and French allies have failed and failed miserably.

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