I will be live-blogging tomorrow’s speech by Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, which is slated to begin at 20:30 Beirut time (17:30 GMT, 13:130 EST).
In case you’ve been living under a rock, this speech promises to be one of the most significant political events of the past five years. Hizbullah has announced that it will unveil “material evidence” that Israel was responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri on February 14, 2005, while also revealing sensitive information about how exactly it came upon this evidence.
The party’s opponents say that this is a ploy to deflect blame away from Hizbullah itself–which is rumored to be facing an imminent indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon–while its supporters believe that the STL is an American/Israeli plot targeting the Resistance.
I can guarantee you that both friend and foe will be watching very closely.
Tune in on Monday for live coverage and a rowdy discussion in the comment section. To bring yourself up to speed on this story, click here for my most recent commentaries.
8:37: Nasrallah begins speaking. He will address the question of why Hizbullah is revealing this information now and not years ago, after he has had a chance to present it. (The front row of the press conference is full of journalistic luminaries: Jean Aziz, Ghassan bin Jeddo, etc.)
8:38: In 1993, a Hizbullah operative named Ali Deeb (Abu Hassan) was imprisoned by Syrian intelligence.
8:42: The reason for his imprisonment, according to Ghazi Kanaan, was that an Israeli collaborator in Lebanon told Hariri that Imad Mughniyeh was planning to kill him, and so Hariri passed on this information to the Syrians, who imprisoned the Hizbullah operative because Mughniyeh was not able to be captured.
8:44: An Israeli agent named Ahmad Nasrallah (no relation to SHN) confessed to passing along this information to Rafiq al-Hariri’s security people. He attempted to plant in Hariri’s mind the idea that Hizbullah was trying to kill him. He specifically told them that Imad Mughniyyeh was trying to kill Hariri, and that they had made several attempts, and that they were thinking about killing Bahiyya al-Hariri, and that Rafiq would be compelled to go to Saida for the funeral, and they could kill him too. This agent was imprisoned in 1996, freed in 2000, and is now living in Israel.
8:54: A presentation of Israel’s accusations that Hizbullah killed Hariri, since the assassination.
8:57: We move now to the second portion of the presentation, which consists of our accusation against Israel. Israel possesses the ability to carry out the assassination. Today we will show that Israel has a variety of collaborators in Lebanon, in every domain.
9:00: Bashar al-Assad informed me, just months before UNSCR 1559 was passed, that Syria was told that it could keep its troops in Lebanon as long as Hizbullah was disarmed and the Palestinian camps were disarmed. Syria refused, and so a great event was needed to pressure Syria to get out of Lebanon. This is the context of the Hariri assassination.
9:05: Israel possesses various sources of intelligence in Lebanon. Most important are the spies and collaborators. These only began to be discovered in 2009 and 2010, so for those of you who are asking us why we didn’t provide evidence in the past, this is one of the main reasons.
9:08: A presentation of the various collaborators and what they confessed to providing in the way of information, to Israel. One, named Philipos Sader, confessed to providing information about the residence of the Lebanese president and the yacht of the General of the Army.
9:10: Why has the STL never looked into the confessions of these collaborators? These statements are available and they are legitimate. Instead, the STL is relying on false witnesses.
9:14: One collaborator confessed to passing on information about the movements of Samir Geagea, and of Saad al-Hariri’s visits to the former. Why is Israel interested in the movements of Geagea and Hariri? They’re not interested in Hizbullah’s leaders, but they’re interested in Geagea and Hariri? The collaborator was also asked to survey certain cafes in Jbeil (Byblos) and which politicians frequented them. Now, as far as I know, Mohammed Fneish and Na`im Qassim (two Hizbullah leaders) are not visiting cafes in Jbeil, and maybe some of our allies in the FPM are, but for the most part the politicians who are going to cafes in Jbeil are part of March 14th.
9:18: The bomb found in al-Zahrani was intended for Nabih Berri, and it was planted by Israel. The intent was to create sectarian violence in Lebanon. They killed the Sunni prime minister of Lebanon, and then they wanted to kill the Shiite Speaker of Parliament. (This is based on a confession by a another collaborator, named Mahmoud Rafi`.)
9:21: Another collaborator admited to transporting large black boxes full of weapons and explosives.
9:24: I call on people to go through all of the confessions of all of the collaborators, which are available in the Lebanese security agencies, to develop a map of the entire Israeli collaborator network in Lebanon.
9:28: The cornerstone of all of Israel’s operations in Lebanon is aerial reconnaissance. Israel possesses a very high degree of technical competence in this field. The secret that we want to reveal today is the following:
Hizbullah acquired the ability, at a point in the 1990’s, to tap into the direct feed from Israeli reconaissance planes that passed from their cameras to the Israeli control center.
9:32: We did not have the ability to know exactly what they were filming at all times, or why, nor were we able to capture all of the various reconnaissance operations at all times, because there were many. At some point, Israel began to encrypt the feed and we were not able to capture everything.
9:34: On September 5 1997, an Israeli commando team landed in Lebanon via the sea and made its way to a spot that the Israelis had been surveying for a long time, and which we determined was going to be the scene of an operation. So we placed an ambush there and waited for months to see if there was going to be an operation. [The Ansariyya Operation] Fifteen people were killed.
9:41: We are going to show two other examples of Israeli surveillance prior to assassinations. We don’t have footage of the actual assassinations because even though the Israeli UAV was in the air at the time, its signal was encoded. (These include the targeted killings of Mahmoud al-Majzoub [leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and his brother.)
9:46: I will now move to discuss the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri. I was asked by the Hariri family if Hizbullah could help in the investigation, shortly after the killing. We formed a joint investigation commission, but after the political turn of the ensuing years, it came to naught. [See question session below].
9:50: Recently, Hizbullah formed a team of experts to go through our enormous archive of Israeli surveillance films leading up to the 2005 assassination so as to determine whether there was indeed evidence that Israel was preparing an operation. We are still in the process of this, after hundreds of hours, and yet we have come to very important conclusions.
9:53: The footage that we will show is from Beirut and from the road that leads from Beirut to Hariri’s residence in Faqra.
9:58: [Shows presentation of footage of the route that Hariri took when he was killed. There is a special focus on street corners, because those are the places that are favored for car bomb attacks against politicians (because the convoy has to slow down).]
10:05: In all of these places that we showed you (in Ras Beirut, etc.) does the Resistance have control centers or offices, etc.? No. Is it just coincidence that the Israelis were surveilling these areas in such detail before the assassination?
10:07: [Shows a presentation of footage of the road to Faqra, which is the only way to get there from the coastal highway. This was the road that Hariri used to take to get to his resort.]
10:09: No one from Hizbullah, to my knowledge, lives in Faqra. Now we will show you surveillance footage focusing on the highway into Saida, leading all the way up to Shafiq al-Hariri’s house (the brother of the victim).
10:14: There is another important secret that we may reveal in the future, if a serious investigation is launched.
10:15: [Presents information about Israeli aerial activity over Lebanon on the day before and day of the assassination. This information is available to anyone with radar in the area.]
10:20: We have evidence that an important collaborator named Ghassan al-Jid was in the area of the assassination on the day before (February 13, 2005).
10:25: Question session begins.
10:28: Question: What will the resistance do if the STL ignores your evidence or if Lebanese parties don’t follow it up? Nasrallah: We will interpret this as proof that the Tribunal is completely politicized.
10:32: We were surveilling an Israeli collaborator who had been following Rafiq al-Hariri’s routes, and we told this to Saad al-Hariri in 2005 or 2006.
10:35: Question: Syrian intelligence had offices in many of the locations that the Israelis were surveilling, even if Hizbullah did not. Plus, how do we know that you haven’t taken a long Israeli film and made a specially edited montage to prove your point? Answer: we will present all of our evidence to Lebanese investigators, and let them come to their own conclusions.
10:43: Nasrallah: The whole point of the STL indictment is to tarnish the image of Hizbullah. We want the truth about who killed Hariri, but we also are very, very, very concerned about public opinion in Lebanon and the Middle East, as it relates to the resistance. This is why we are presenting this evidence to the public.
10:45: Question: Will Hizbullah resign from the government if it is indicted? Answer: We will not discuss these kinds of political issues until after the indictment.
10:49: It was after the July War that our relation with the Hariri family and the joint investigation effort went sour.
10:52: I will not ask Saad al-Hariri to drop the investigation or to renounce the tribunal or Bellemare or anything. What we want is the truth and justice.
10:54: We have not presented this evidence directly to the STL because we won’t cooperate with anyone we do not trust.
10:56: Jean Aziz’s question: The inaugural declaration of this cabinet includes a clause which states that the government will cooperate with the STL. Does this press conference demonstrate the lack of truth in that statement? Nasrallah: we were cooperating with the STL until they decided to go on summer vacation. When they come back, we’ll revisit the issue.
11:01: Press conference ends.