LEBANON: Hezbollah accused of spying on airport
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Hezbollah’s internal security apparatus is going high-tech, at least according to its U.S.-backed opponents in a recently escalating war of words between the two groups.
The Shiite militant group has placed surveillance cameras near Beirut’s international airport and established its own parallel communications network over large parts of Lebanon.
In a fiery news conference Saturday, the anti-Syrian political leader, Walid Jumblatt, did not mince any word in accusing Hezbollah of flying in arms from Iran and preparing for a terrorist attack.
As a solution, he demanded that Iran’s ambassador should be expelled from Lebanon, that Iranian jetliners should be banned from landing in Beirut and that the head of security at the airport should be sacked for his loyalty to the militant group.
Jumblatt was armed with a handful of what he called incriminating evidence. He said Hezbollah was maintaining a base overlooking the airport in order ‘to monitor the arrival of Lebanese or foreign leaders and to kidnap or assassinate [people] on the airport road.’
He also displayed a map to show the extent of Hezbollah’s private telephone network all over Lebanese territory and stretching to Syria.
Hezbollah slammed these accusations as ‘hallucinations’ and floated the theory that Jumblatt was part of a thwarted Israeli operation in the Shiite-controlled southern suburbs of the capital. A statement issued by the group said:
‘Under the slogan ‘perhaps’ and ‘perhaps,’ Walid Jumblatt is burning the country through incitements, slanders and sedition. He sketches scenarios based on data that eventually become films…. Did Jumblatt commit himself to fight the U.S. battle against Israel after he announced that Israel is no longer an enemy, thus making himself a U.S. tool to serve Israel? ‘Perhaps’ Jumblatt suffered recently from a political overdose.
Later, Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah held another news conference in which he acknowledged that the group had built a communications network as an ‘efficient tool’ used against Israel in the summer 2006 war.
He warned that ‘the network is part of the resistance arms and should not be harmed.’
The affair is far from over. The Lebanese judiciary has started investigating Jumblatt’s accusations, and the U.S.-backed cabinet is convening today to discuss them.
The repercussions are already being seen on the streets of Beirut in clashes between Sunni supporters of the government and Shiite supporters of Hezbollah.
Last night, armed street clashes erupted in different parts of the capital leading, leaving five people injured before the army was able to contain the fighting.
—Raed Rafei in Beirut