BEIRUT: Hezbollah held funeral services Thursday for three of its fighters slain in a blast at an arms depot in eastern Lebanon, with vows to keep the party’s arsenal despite local and international calls for the group to disarm.
Meanwhile, the reported killing of a Hezbollah commander and several fighters by anti-regime rebels in Syria drew fire from members of the parliamentary Future bloc.
The opposition MPs lambasted the party’s involvement in the 18-month-old bloody conflict in the neighboring country and scoffed at the government’s dissociation policy on the developments next door.
Hezbollah said three of its fighters were killed Wednesday when an explosion ripped through an arms depot in the eastern village of Nabi Sheet, a stronghold of the party about 30 kilometers south of the ancient city of Baalbek. The group added that the blast occurred in a warehouse where old shells and ammunition and remnants of the Israeli shelling in the area were stored.
Hezbollah identified the three victims as Jaafar Ali Musawi, Ali Mustafa Alaeddine and Ali Hussein al-Khishen.
During funeral processions attended by senior Hezbollah officials and hundreds of supporters and relatives of the victims, Musawi was buried in his home village of Nabi Sheet, while the other two were laid to rest in their home village of Sohmor in western Bekaa.
Black-clad women threw rice grains and rose petals at the coffins of the three, carried shoulder-high by Hezbollah’s supporters and relatives. The coffins were wrapped with Hezbollah’s yellow flags.
Addressing mourners in Nabi Sheet, Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, a member of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, vowed that the party will retain its weapons despite mounting local calls on the group to surrender its arms to the Lebanese Army.
“We will remain in this position and we will keep our arms. We consider our arms like blood flowing in our veins no matter what the costs are,” he said.
Apparently responding to threats by the rebel Free Syrian Army which promised Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah “surprises that will give him nightmares,” Yazbek said: “We are making preparations for the victory day. To those who promised us surprises, we promise surprises to the enemies of our Muslim nation. Our war is against the American-Israeli project and not a war among Muslims.”
Military investigating Judge Danny al-Zeini, accompanied by Lebanese Army intelligence personnel, inspected the site of the explosion in Nabi Sheet Wednesday night in an attempt to determine what caused the powerful blast that led to the collapse of the four-story building.
Israeli media reports suggested that Israel could be behind the Nabi Sheet explosion. The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot quoted a senior Israeli security official as hinting at Israel’s involvement in the explosion. “This explosion amounted to piercing the sword in the heart of Hezbollah,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying.
Similar explosions have occurred at Hezbollah’s weapons depots in southern Lebanon in recent years, also causing casualties.
Wednesday’s blast followed reports that the Hezbollah commander and several fighters had been killed in Syria by anti-regime rebels.
The FSA has claimed responsibility for the death of Hezbollah commander Ali Hussein Nassif, also known as Abu Abbas, with an explosive device that killed him and two of his bodyguards in the Qusair area on the Syrian side of the border.
The FSA also vowed what it called an “earthshaking response” against Hezbollah fighters for providing assistance to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Lebanese security officials said Tuesday that Nassif and several Hezbollah fighters had been killed in Syria.
Meanwhile, Future lawmakers lashed out at Hezbollah, saying that the group’s resistance against Israel has now shifted to fighting the Syrian people seeking freedom and democracy in their country.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the Future bloc, indirectly slammed Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict in Syria. “We are trying hard to maintain and consolidate stability in Lebanon and keep it away from regional and international struggles. However, I think unfortunately that some in Lebanon are not committed to this policy,” Siniora said in a clear reference to Hezbollah.
“I fear that the policy and practices of some [Hezbollah] may lead to involving and linking Lebanon to regional and international axes on which the Lebanese people were not consulted,” he said in a speech in the southern city of Sidon. “What is the reason for sliding into the ongoing military conflict in Syria between the Syrian people, who are seeking to regain their freedom and dignity, and the Syrian regime?”
Commenting on the death of Hezbollah members in Syria, Future MP Ammar Houri said in a statement: “From Qusair to Nabi Sheet, [Hezbollah’s] jihadi duty and its arms are still gambling with the resources of Lebanon and the Lebanese. The jihadi duty has lost its way. Nabi Sheet is not Kiryat Shimona [in Israel], Qusair is not the Galilee, and Aleppo is not Haifa.”
Referring to Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government which has repeatedly bragged that its dissociation policy was designed to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of the turmoil in Syria, Houri said: “I ask the people of the dissociation policy what is your stance concerning published documents about plots to carry out crimes inside Lebanon?”
Houri was referring to former Information Minister Michel Samaha, a longtime ally of Assad, who was formally charged in August by Lebanon’s Military Tribunal of being part of a terror plot to destabilize the country.
Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, the chief of Syrian National Security Bureau, and a Syrian officer, identified as Brig. Gen. Adnan, were also accused of being part of the conspiracy.
Future MP Ahmad Fatfat slammed Hezbollah for accusing the opposition March 14 parties of dragging Lebanon into the Syrian conflict while, he said, the party’s resistance against Israel was now geared toward fighting the Syrian people.
“Compelling facts indicate that the one who claims resistance against Israel has turned into resisting the democratic will of the Lebanese people. And now it has become a resistance against the freedom will of the Syrian people,” Fatfat said in statement.
“Did [Hezbollah’s] ‘jihadi duty’ abandon its role against Israel and did [Hezbollah] abandon the southern Lebanese villages to turn to Homs’ countryside to help Bashar Assad’s shabbiha [armed thugs] and its brigades and carry out the ‘jihadi duty’ against the heroic Syrian people who are slaughtered every day?” Fatfat asked.
“Hezbollah’s flagrant military intervention in Syria, in addition to the confirmed terrorist case of Michel Samaha, have put stability at stake and placed Lebanon on the brink of a security, economic and political abyss,” he added.