Hezbollah vows Israel will pay for Lakkis' killing
The head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah [Getty Images]
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Hezbollah’s Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowed Friday his party would avenge the killing of Hassan Lakkis, one of the party’s commander who was assassinated earlier this month, saying evidence collected by the group indicated Israel was behind the hit.
Nasrallah also warned against attempts to form a fait accompli Cabinet in Lebanon and voiced opposition to extending the term of President Michel Sleiman, saying the only alternative to a presidential vacuum was the election of a new head of state.
Speaking via a televised screen at the commemoration ceremony of Lakkis in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Nasrallah also voiced concern of the fate of the country, implicitly accusing Saudi Arabia of seeking to destroy Lebanon over its failure in Syria.
"The assassination of Hajj Hassan Lakkis is not one of those passing incidents between us and the Israelis and nobody should think that," Nasrallah said.
“Israelis should not think that Hezbollah is too busy with the situation in the region and in Lebanon and that the timing is not right for us – this [kind of thinking] would be a mistake," he added.
Lakkis was gunned down on Dec. 4 outside his apartment building in the Beirut neighborhood of St. Therese. The Hezbollah commander played a key role in advancing the group’s technological capabilities in its fight against Israel and was a target of several attempted assassinations.
"We have an open-ended account to settle with Israel and the killers will be punished sooner or later and the blood of our martyrs will never go in vain," the Hezbollah chief said.
“The punishment is forthcoming,” Nasrallah warned.
Describing Lakkis as a long-time friend, Nasrallah said the commander’s killing was aimed at dealing a blow to Hezbollah’s capabilities and part of the price fighters sometimes had to pay for their cause.
“The assassination of Lakkis is part of the price we pay for our victories and it is a blow to the pillars and foundations of the resistance [group’s] current capabilities, readiness and its ability to develop,” he said, adding that the slain commander was one of the party’s “brightest minds.”
Turning to Israel, Nasrallah said accusing the Jewish state of killing Lakkis is “not a political accusation but one based on facts.”
“In light of how the Israeli media, the analysis and newspapers covered the event, I can safely say that they almost reached a point of officially adopting the assassination,” he added.
Nasrallah also spoke about his rivals in the March 14 coalition, saying the group had recently adopted a “very dangerous, unprecedented rhetoric,” referring to a recent Future Movement rally in the northern city of Tripoli.
During the rally, Future Movement officials and lawmakers as well as some March 14 figures blasted Hezbollah, accusing it of seeking to put Lebanon under Iran’s influence and describing the Islamic Republic as a country that excludes, bombs and divides.
Describing such rhetoric as primarily aimed at inciting strife, Nasrallah said that there were two objectives behind the positions voiced in the northern city.
“The first is that the March 14 is saying that they will never join a dialogue table with us or form a government with us ... this can be understood as a declaration of war because they did not set a line of retreat,” Nasrallah said.
“If this is true, then tell us but we don’t want to engage in a war with you ... but no one should play with us,” he warned.
The second goal of the Tripoli gathering, according to Nasrallah, was to support a media campaign of intimidation.
He urged all parties in Lebanon to preserve a political line of retreat and room for reconciliation.