BEIRUT: Hezbollah said yesterday one of its top leaders was killed near Beirut, and blamed Israel, at a time of soaring tensions in Lebanon linked to the war in neighbouring Syria.
The slain leader, identified as Hassan Hawlo Al Lakiss (pictured), was the most senior figure in Hezbollah to be assassinated since Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a Damascus bombing in 2008, which the movement also accused Israel of carrying out.
Virtually unknown before his death was made public, Lakiss was part of Hezbollah’s secretive top leadership.
“The Islamic resistance announces the death of one of its leaders, the martyr Hassan Hawlo Al Lakiss, who was assassinated near his house in the Hadath region,” east of Beirut, Hezbollah said.
“Direct accusation is aimed of course against the Israeli enemy which had tried to eliminate our martyred brother again and again and in several places but had failed, until Tuesday evening. “This enemy must bear full responsibility for all the consequences of this heinous crime,” Hezbollah said on its Al Manar television channel without elaborating.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor dismissed the allegations as “yet another Pavlovian response from Hezbollah, which makes automatic accusations before even thinking about what’s actually happened.”
“Israel has nothing to do with this,” he said. The Syrian government echoed Hezbollah’s accusations against Israel, adding that it condemned the “terrorist, cowardly” assassination.
Hezbollah television said Lakiss had been shot repeatedly with a silenced handgun after parking his car in the building where he lived, adding that more than one assailant took part in the attack.
According to a source close to the Shia movement, Lakiss was a “personal friend and one of the closest to Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, both on the personal and party levels.”
Hezbollah emerged during Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s with the aim of driving Israeli forces out of the country and battled the Jewish state to a bloody stalemate in a new conflict in 2006. Hezbollah said Lakiss’s son was killed in that war, which claimed the lives of some 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and more than 150 Israelis, mainly soldiers.AFP