Feb 14, 2008

Nasrallah: Mughniyah's Blood Will Lead to Elimination of Israel


Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday threatened to retaliate against Israel for the killing of militant commander Imad Mughniyah Tuesday, saying "his blood will lead to the elimination of Israel."

Mughniyah, the deputy secretary general of the Lebanon-based guerilla group, was killed in a bomb blast in a residential neighborhood in Damascus late Tuesday. Israel denied involvement.

Nasrallah also vowed to
strike Israeli targets abroad after accusing Israel of taking the fight beyond Lebanese borders by killing Mughniyah in Syria. "You have killed Hajj Imad outside the natural battlefield," Nasrallah said, addressing Israel and referring to Hezbollah's longtime contention it only fights Israel within Lebanon and along their common border.

"You have crossed the borders," Nasrallah said in the fiery eulogy at Mughniyah's funeral in south Beirut. "With this murder, its timing, location and method - Zionists, if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: Let this war be open."

"Like all human beings we have a sacred right to defend ourselves," said Nasrallah, speaking in a videotaped message broadcast over a giant screen at the ceremony in a Hezbollah stronghold. "We will do all that takes to defend our country and people."

Nasrallah went into hiding in 2006, fearing an Israeli assassination and making only three appearances since the summer war that year with Israel.

"In every future war there won't be one Imad [Mughniyah] or a few thousand fighters, but tens of thousand loyal fighters who are willing to die as martyrs," he warned.

Soon after he finished speaking, volleys of celebratory gunfire echoed around the city's southern suburbs.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended the funeral in Lebanon and offered condolences to the militant's family in a south Beirut hall.

Beirut was divided into two worlds on Thursday, separated by an abyss. At 10 A.M., in the Martyrs Square in the center of town, thousands attended a rally marking three years since the assassination of former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. At 2 P.M., Hezbollah flexed its muscles during a mass funeral for Mughniyah. Lebanon is a divided country, and its citizens have a sharpened sense of political awareness. The two events that were held on the same day in the same city were expected to turn into a competition over death: in which event will there be more participants?

On Wednesday, Hezbollah announced that it is calling on all its supporters to attend the funeral "in order to carry on the resistance and achieve victory."

At the same time, the Shuff mountains awoke Wednesday to the sound of loudspeakers carrying the speeches of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the late Hariri, announcing rallying points from which convoys of participants in the memorial in Beirut would embark passengers.

Nasrallah was expected at the funeral to announce who will be replacing the slain terrorist on the group's Jihad council.

The government of Lebanon announced the closing of schools and public institutions in the capital Thursday, hoping this will enable as many Hariri supporters as possible to attend the memorial. Of course, this will also enable opponents of Hariri to participate in the competing rally.

Car rental agencies have already made their entire fleets available to parties, and in Lebanon they say that there are no minibuses available for transporting people anywhere but to the rallies. Hoping to ease the traffic situation, security sources in Lebanon announced changes in the traffic patterns and banned trucks from the roads.

Lebanese sources joked Wednesday that the Hezbollah supporters are "praying for rain." It is assumed that the rainy, cold weather will lead many of Hariri's supporters to stay at home, while the same limitation is not expected to affect the Shi'ite supporters of Hezbollah who will participate in the funeral.

Beirut is a very nervous city, even in normal days, because of the tense political situation. The levels of anxiety are expected to peak Thursday, and in an attempt to somewhat control the situation, Hezbollah opted to hold the funeral several hours after the memorial for Hariri ends.

The other side, the pro-Hariri group known as the February 14th Movement, also sought to lower tensions: they issued an announcement condemning the assassination of Imad Mughniyah.

Sa'ad Hariri issued a death notice for Mughniyah's death in which he called for Lebanese unity. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora also issued a laconic death notice, even though he is considered an outcast by Hezbollah. "Let Allah welcome the shaheed in all his mercy and house him in heaven," the notice read.