Lebanon: Resistance Air Defense Commander Assassinated
By: Radwan Mortada
Published Thursday, December 5, 2013
Israeli intelligence has assassinated Hassan al-Laqqis. A deadly breach has taken out one of the leading minds of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon. The executioners snuck under cover of darkness and struck a blow to Hezbollah deep inside its stronghold.
The five bullets did not penetrate the head of Hassan al-Laqqis alone but also the heart of the Resistance itself. The assailants followed Laqqis, snuck in, and struck down the head of Hezbollah’s air defense division, and one of the Resistance’s most important “electronic minds.”
The perpetrators fired five shots – one of which missed – killing Laqqis after several botched assassination attempts in the past. There is no doubt that this is a Mossad operation, no matter who carried it out directly – whether takfiri groups or collaborators.
The boldness of the perpetrators alone was enough to establish that they were not Israelis, but rather agents. However, the identity of the target proves conclusively that the mastermind is Israel. The loss is a major one, but this is what happens in war.
At midnight on Wednesday, December 4, a guard at the Shaheen Residential Complex in the St. Therese district, located southeast of Beirut in Hadath, was awoken by a strange noise. The man heard the sound of glass breaking. He hesitated for a moment, and then went to check it out.
There was no one there, except Laqqis, who was sitting behind the wheel of his car covered in his own blood. Another neighbor of Laqqis heard the same noise. He went out on his balcony and saw two men running through the field adjacent to the complex.
He could not make out their faces. He did not dwell on it much because he did not know what had happened, but he had a hunch that something terrible had just taken place.
Laqqis’s neighbors did not know who he was. They suddenly learned the true identity of the shadowy man who lived on the second floor as being one of the people credited for achieving Hezbollah’s victory in July 2006.
The crime scene did not differ much from other crime scenes, with the exception of the presence of Hezbollah personnel. At the entrance of the complex, a man in his twenties was checking the identities of the journalists who flocked to the scene.
Despite the sheer number of journalists, police officers, and Hezbollah personnel, deep silence engulfed the place. The complex consists of three buildings with surveillance cameras placed at each corner. It is not easy to enter without being spotted, and the balconies overlook the main yard.
The complex is surrounded by buildings from all sides, though one side is adjacent to a field littered with a few trees. This was the deadly weak spot, as witnesses reported that the perpetrators had infiltrated the complex through that opening to shoot Laqqis, before leaving the same way.
Initial information indicates that the two men were expecting Laqqis. Perhaps they hid behind a car or in the field. Then, as soon as his vehicle arrived, one of them approached and fired from a silenced pistol at the victim’s head and neck.
There is no official security information yet, but analyzing surveillance tapes, if the cameras were indeed operational, may reveal the identity of the perpetrators, especially since there is a camera located right where Laqqis had parked his car.
Again, this is war. It is an open-ended security battle between the Resistance’s security services and Israel’s. It is nothing new for Israel to strike the Resistance in the latter’s backyard, but the modus operandi is new.
The target, meanwhile, happens to be the second most important Hezbollah commander to be assassinated, after the group’s military leader Imad Mughniyeh. Israel has not carried out assassinations this bold and direct before. Most previous assassinations would be carried out by means of explosives planted in the cars of Resistance officials or along a route they took regularly.
This is odd, bearing in mind that Laqqis’s assassination is the first to take place against Hezbollah targets since Mughniyeh’s assassination in 2008, and the first in Beirut’s southern suburb since the assassination of Hezbollah leader Ghalib Awali in 2004.
In this regard, reports have confirmed that only Israel knew Laqqis and the nature of his work. Accordingly, all indications point that Israel supplied the perpetrators with information about the man’s place of residence and movements.
The identity of the perpetrators remains unknown, although sources do not discount the possibility of them being radical extremists, “because the operation is closer to being a suicide attack as it was possible the men would have been intercepted and engaged.” Concerning questions about the relationship between the Mossad and the takfiri groups, sources say, “There could be indirect coordination through agents, but it could also be direct.”
According to reports, Israel has tried to take out Laqqis more than once, including through direct Israeli bombardment of a residential complex in al-Hajjaj Street in Chiyah during the July War, based on intelligence reports that Laqqis was present inside. It is worth noting that Laqqis’s son was killed in addition to 40 others in that air strike, which took place on the 27th day of the war.
According to the same reports, the car that the Israeli air force pursued and strafed along the Camille Chamoun Highway in the area of St. Therese during the war was being driven by Laqqis, who was injured in the process.
Later on Wednesday, Hezbollah announced Laqqis’s death officially, stating, “Martyred commander Hassan al-Laqqis spent his youth and all his life in the Resistance, since its early days and until his last hours. He was a creative striver who made many sacrifices, and a leader and a lover of martyrdom. He was the father of the martyr who died with a gathering of martyrs during the aggression of July 2006.”
Hezbollah then accused Israel of being behind the assassination, stating, “[Israel] had tried to get to the martyr many times, in many regions, and failed,” that is, before this crime. Though a statement was posted on Twitter claiming responsibility for the murder on behalf of the “Free Sunni Brigade-Baalbeck,” sources close to Hezbollah questioned its authenticity, saying that the group in question does not exist.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.