Lebanon: Hezbollah leader murdered, Israel and US gloat

February 22, 2008

On February 12 Imad Fayez Mughniyeh, a leader of Hezbollah — which led the successful resistance to Israel's July-August 2006 war on Lebanon — was assassinated in Syria.

While entering his car in a Damascus suburb, an explosive device in the car was detonated, killing Mughniyeh along with two other people. Residents in the suburb said that the explosion was so fierce, windows in many near-by residential buildings were shattered.

Mughniyeh, 45, took part in the resistance to the US-backed Israeli occupation of the south of Lebanon since 1982.

The action that put him on both the US and Israel's "most wanted" lists were the attacks he led against the US marines base and US embassy in Lebanon. Mughniyeh also took an active part in the resistance to the Israeli attacks on Lebanon in 2006.

Hezbollah's television station described him as "one of the makers of liberation and the glorious victory in the July [2006] war".

Despite being wanted by both Israel and the US for many years, both countries denied involvement in the assassination. Both Hezbollah and the Syrian government, on the other hand, have denounced the assassination as "Israeli state-terrorism".

This allegation is made in the light of Israel's long-time policy of assassinating leaders of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance — with no regard for proper judicial process, the right to resist occupation, or even for the lives of civilians surrounding the target.

Mughniyeh's brother, Jihad, was killed along with 80 others in 1985, when CIA-trained Lebanese mercenaries tried to assassinate religious leader Mohammad Fadlallah. Hezbollah's general secretary, Hasan Nasrallah, was himself appointed in 1992 after then general secretary Abbas Al-Musawi was assassinated along with his family by the Israeli army.

Israel's denial lost some of its ground after a number of ministers and parliamentarians spoke publically in favour of the assassination. Even the US blessed the murder — State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack stated that "the world is a better place" without Mughniyeh.

The FBI is reported to have put a price of US$25 million on Mughniyeh's life — equal to the bounty on the head of Osama bin Laden.

During Mughniyeh's funeral in Beirut, which drew tens of thousands of people, Nasrallah stated that the assassination proves that the Lebanon war, during which thousands of Lebanese were killed by Israeli air strikes in 2006, is not over.

This assassination comes less than six month after Israel's attack on Syria, in which the Israeli air force bombed what Israel claimed to be "foundations to a nuclear facility" — an allegation denied repeatedly by Syria.

Israel is occupying the Golan Heights, a region in the south of Syria — an occupation that has lasted for more than 40 years. Although Israel has officially annexed the Golan Heights, this annexation is not recognised by international law.

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