Hezbollah has “brazenly attacked the Lebanese Army” – in its Thursday shooting-attack on an army helicopter, killing 1st Lt. Samer Hanna and wounding several others – so say the leaders of Lebanon’s pro-democracy movement.
Hours after the shooting, Tom Harb, secretary general of The International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah), tells me:
“This is tantamount to a declaration of war by Hezbollah, and if they will attack the Lebanese Army, they will surely have no qualms about attacking the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).”
Harb has just sent a letter to the UN stating such.
Hezbollah – a Shiia terrorist group with expansive ambitions both at home in Lebanon and abroad – is heavily funded and equipped by Iran and operationally supported by both Iran and Syria.
As we have reported, the group has strengthened its strategic positions across Lebanon in recent months. And in recent weeks, Hezbollah’s combat training and military posturing has increased in regions of the country far beyond its traditionally recognized southern defenses (below the Litani River) and Al Dahiyeh (Hezbollah’s south Beirut stronghold near the airport).
The doomed helicopter was in fact shot down over a rugged stretch of terrain in south Lebanon where sources have been informing us for weeks that Hezbollah and Pasdaran (Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) fighters have been conducting small-unit military exercises.
This is not the first time Hezbollah has attacked the Lebanese government. But it is one of the boldest attacks to date against the army.
In May, Hezbollah – which has been able to skirt UN demands to disarm by threatening Lebanon’s leaders and claiming to be a legitimate “resistance” force – turned its weapons on the Lebanese government and citizenry following government decisions to both fire a Hezbollah-linked airport security chief and shut down the terrorist group’s private telecommunications system (linking Hezbollah with Teheran and Damascus). In the end, Hezbollah won, was granted veto power over government decisions, and ultimately positioned as an “official” wing of the Lebanese Defense apparatus.
Simply put, Hezbollah has increased its leverage over the legitimate army. Hezbollah has infiltrated the officer corps of the army. But the army and police dare not go where Hezbollah does not permit, which is what the army apparently did today.
“The helicopter was brought down ‘because it crossed red lines that Hezbollah had warned the Defense Ministry and army command’ not to cross,” sources told the Lebanese media. “…sources also said that the Resistance [Hezbollah] considered the region very sensitive, and Hezbollah leaders have already stressed the importance of the location because it contained the Resistance’s telecommunications apparatus.”
Harb says, if Pres. Michel Sleiman, the pro-Syrian former commanding-general of the Lebanese armed forces, does not respond to this attack, “he will demonstrate that he is not only yielding to terrorists, but he is perhaps collaborating with Iran and Syria.”
But none of us are holding our breath. Sleiman, who I spent more than two hours with in a one-on-one conversation (not including private conversations with his chief of intelligence and several of his generals) last fall, became agitated whenever I brought up the issue of Hezbollah. “Why do you want to talk about Hezbollah?” he snapped at me.
Following Thursday’s attack, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, deputy president of the Higher Islamic Shiia Council, began propagating the typical spin, blaming the attack on Israeli “infiltrators.” And Hezbollah has since reportedly said they were only firing warning shots.
All of this comes on the heels of published remarks by Italian Army Major General Claudio Graziano, senior commander of UNIFIL. Speaking to the Jerusalem Post on Aug. 15, Graziano said that “excellent cooperation” existed between UNIFIL and Hezbollah militiamen, and that “apart from UN troops, Lebanese soldiers and [local] hunters, no one is armed south of the Litani River.”
Not sure if Graziano was drinking grape or cherry Kool-Aid.