Less than two decades ago, Hezbollah operatives eliminated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It was a political assassination, and Hassan Nasrallah has since made every possible effort to sabotage the international investigation to locate and prosecute the killers, and has succeeded in doing so. Some are still roaming free. Some were promoted within the organization.
Hezbollah, as the one that actually controls the port of Beirut, also bears direct or indirect responsibility for the massive explosion of an ammonium nitrate depot, which last year destroyed the seaport and no small parts of the surrounding residential neighborhoods. This time, too, Nasrallah decided to sabotage an investigation aimed at finding the culprits, despite the heavy pressure of the families of the more than 200 killed.
Under pressure from Hezbollah, the head of the first investigation team was ousted earlier this year, but his successor, Judge Tark Bitar, was also suspected by the Hezbollah leader of being “politically biased,” especially after issuing arrest warrants against Hezbollah ministers who refused to appear for questioning.
And when it became clear to Nasrallah that the second impeachment would be more difficult this time, he threatened to paralyze the fragile cabinet meeting, which was recently formed in a desperate effort to overcome the huge economic crisis that threatens to crush the Lebanese state. In order to strengthen his demand for the replacement of the judge with a “decent man”, Nasrallah sent his supporters to demonstrate today in front of the court, which refused to disqualify the continuation of the investigating judge’s tenure.
But here the plot developed in an unexpected direction. Armed with Hezbollah opponents, and there are many in Lebanon, they climbed on the roofs of nearby houses and opened fire on the protesters. At least six people were killed.
Hezbollah, as the one that actually controls the port of Beirut, also bears direct or indirect responsibility for the massive explosion of an ammonium nitrate depot, which last year destroyed the seaport and no small parts of the surrounding neighborhoods.
The shooting scene is loaded with historical memory. Not far away, near the Ein Romana neighborhood, the first incident took place between the Christian phalanx and PLO operatives. It ignited the Lebanese civil war in 1975, which lasted almost 15 years and claimed the lives of nearly 150,000 people.
Also last night, after the shots were fired from the rooftops at the protesters, fire was immediately opened from the a-Shiah neighborhood, populated by Hezbollah-supporting Shiites, towards the nearby Ein Romana neighborhood, where Christian Lebanese forces, who head the Hezbollah opposition camp in Lebanon, live.
It could have developed in seconds into a major arson attack on an ethnic basis, and what saved the situation, as of last night, was the rapid and vigorous intervention of the Lebanese army, which is perhaps the only institution in Lebanon that is still more or less functioning. Nasrallah, too, who is not really interested in a new civil war, ordered his operatives to exercise restraint.
But the exchange of accusations between Hezbollah Shiites and Christian “Lebanese forces” over the identity of the shooters has already begun. The investigation into the explosion at the port has stalled again. The new Lebanese government is faltering. A way out of the economic collapse is not yet in sight, tensions in the air are rising and the whole country is sitting on a huge barrel of explosives.