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Lebanon News

Authorities analyze camera footage in rocket attack probe

A Lebanese soldier checks the site where two rocket launch pads were found in Ballouneh, Friday, June 21, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Authorities are interviewing witnesses and reviewing camera footage as part of an ongoing investigation into last week’s mystery rocket attack near Beirut and the discovery of two rocket launchpads in the Kesrouan region, judicial sources said Sunday. “Army intelligence personnel, backed by military police and investigators from the [Internal Security Forces’] Information Branch, are still collecting information from witnesses in a bid to reach clues on the rocket incident in Ballouneh,” a judicial source told The Daily Star.

“The Army and military police investigators are also checking cameras installed in the area to see if any photos of those behind the rocket episode were taken,” the source said.

The Army found Friday two rocket launchpads in the town of Ballouneh in Kesrouan, hours after a rocket slammed into a valley in Jamhour, near the Baabda Palace and the Defense Ministry in Yarze.

The rocket, which caused an explosion that reverberated across large parts of Beirut and surrounding mountains, hit a high-tension electricity cable in Aley, southeast of Beirut, the Army said, adding that military experts had managed to disable a second rocket.

The target of the attack remained unclear, however. The Army said it was continuing its investigation to identify and apprehend the culprits.

Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya official MP Imad Hout said the rocket attack was aimed at delivering a warning to President Michel Sleiman, who has criticized Hezbollah’s heavy involvement in Syria’s civil war and sent memos last week to the United Nations and the Arab League listing violations of Lebanese territories by the warring sides in Syria.

“The two Ballouneh rockets are a message to the president of the republic,” Hout told Voice of Lebanon radio station. “It appears that is forbidden that we have a sovereign president.”

Hout is a member of the Future parliamentary bloc which supports the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The bloc has also blasted Hezbollah’s fighting alongside Assad’s forces and called on the party to withdraw its fighters from Syria.

Coming amid deep national divisions over the conflict in Syria and a string of security incidents, the rocket attack raised the possibility that the Baabda Palace or Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, might have been the target.

Late last month, the Army discovered launchpads on the outskirts of the Mount Lebanon village of Aitat, southeast of Beirut, after a rocket attack on the capital’s southern suburbs wounded four people.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 24, 2013, on page 3.

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