ANALYSIS: Iran’s ‘touch’ is working in Lebanon

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Aftermath of Beirut explosion

Yochanan Visser(A7) The chaos in Lebanon is being increasingly exploited by the terror organizations. Hamas and Hezbollah along with the Gaza-based Sunni Islamist group are actively working to establish a new front with Israel, as we will see.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is in the meantime using the extremely difficult situation in the Land of the Cedars, as Lebanon was once called, to establish itself as the most powerful force in the country, dominating every aspect of life in Lebanon including the legal system.

The aftermath of the Beirut blast

Let’s first take a look at what Hezbollah did on Thursday when together with Amal, another Shi’ite group in Lebanon, it staged a protest against the main investigator into those who bear responsibility for the Beirut port disaster of August 2020.

The port disaster took the lives of 215 people while at least another 6,500 people were injured when a large amount of the chemical agent ammonium nitrate exploded in a hangar that had no air-conditioner.

The blast had the power of an earthquake and destroyed thousands of houses, leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.

Hezbollah-controlled media were the first to report on the ‘root cause’ of the huge explosion. They said Hezbollah officials were certain that the blast was caused by exploding fireworks in a nearby warehouse or by technicians who were welding the entrance door of the hangar, depending on who you asked.

Independent foreign experts, however, came to the conclusion that because of the fact that a chain of three very different huge explosions was visible on video footage, the cause of the blast was quite different.

One of these experts was Israeli scholar and Arabist Dr. Mordechai Kedar who was certain that igniting missile fuel stored by Hezbollah was the root cause of the blast.

Here’s what Kedar wrote at the time: “missile-fuel fumes evaporated from a container and touched the hot wall or ceiling, where they ignited and caused a chain reaction of explosions.”

An American weapon and explosives expert told me after the blast that “the second explosion which created a purple-red smoke cloud was the result of exploding nitrogen triiodide an inorganic compound used for the production of missiles and explosives.”

The American expert came to the conclusion that the explosions were the result of the mixing of chemicals used to make bombs and explosives as well as rocket fuel.

Hezbollah, of course, denied having anything to do with the blast with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the terror organization, claiming that he knew more about what was happening in the port of the Israeli city Haifa than in the Beirut port.

Ever since, Hezbollah has been trying to derail any serious investigation into the causes of the disaster and now tries to block the official inquiry that is currently being led by Judge Tariq al-Bitar.

Al-Bitar was appointed in February after his predecessor, Paddy Savan, was removed from office due to political pressure.

Both Bitar and Sawan have concluded that senior Lebanese officials, including members of the Hezbollah terrorist organization, should be prosecuted because of their responsibility for the port disaster.

About a month ago, a lawsuit was filed against al-Bitar, calling on him to stop the investigation and to resign from his position, but the judge didn’t budge and continued to do his work.

The lawsuit was filed, according to a senior Lebanese justice official, by Nohad Machnuk, a former Lebanese interior minister.

Machenok is one of the suspects in the chain of events that led to the disaster in the port of Beirut and is part of the corrupt political class in Lebanon.

After the disaster, Machenok claimed “Israel carried out an operation in a clear and explicit manner” and said it was “a crime against humanity.”

A Lebanese court dismissed the lawsuit against al-Bitar, however, and allowed him to resume the investigation into the explosion.

At that point, Hezbollah upped the pressure on al-Bitar and his fellow investigators while at the same time threatening to use “other means” to get him removed from his position.

A senior Hezbollah official even issued a death threat against the judge, but when that didn’t work either, the Shiite terror organization together with Amal organized a protest against al-Bitar.

At the protest Thursday, unknown gunmen opened fire on the hundreds of mostly armed activists killing at least six of them, after which gun battles erupted throughout the Shiite and Christian neighborhoods in Lebanon.

The violence erupted two days after Nasrallah threatened al-Bitar as well, accusing him of “politically targeting officials” in his investigation.

It remains unclear who exactly the gunmen were that opened fire on the Hezbollah- and Amal activists, but Hezbollah is sure the Christian Lebanese Forces Party (LF) was behind the sniper shootings.

While that appears to be true, Lebanon came close to another civil war last Thursday.

Hezbollah is now triying to douse the flames and says it doesn’t want “civil strife”.

Hezbollah leader Hashem Safieddine, however, said during the funeral of one of the victims that the “blood of our martyrs will not be shed in vain” and accused the United States and an unspecified Arab country (probably Saudi Arabia) of ordering the attacks on Hezbollah members.

The whole incident shows, however, that Hezbollah seems to have overplayed its hand and doesn’t realize that many people in Lebanon are fed up with the Iranian proxy that bears responsibility for the economic meltdown of the country.

Hamas in Lebanon

Then, there is Hamas that apparently has decided to open a new front with Israel from southern Lebanon and exploits the huge poverty and lack of basic goods in the country.

After the disastrous outcome of the eleven-day war with Israel in May this year, the Sunni Islamist group is now setting up new bases in the Palestinian Arab refugee camps throughout Lebanon.

Hamas has two brigades in Lebanon and headquarters located in the coastal city of Sidon, that has a large Palestinian Arab population. Almost all of them are descendants of the refugees that fled Israel before and during the 1948-War of Independence, and like all the descendants of these refugees in any Arab country, have been refused citizenship so as to continue the pressure on Israel.

The two brigades, El-Shimali and Khaled Ali, recruit new members and train them in specialized combat skills such as sniping, anti-tank missile attacks, operating drones, and more.

The units also develop and produce their own weapons – rockets, offensive drones, and small unmanned underwater vehicles while setting up operational cells which are preparing attack plans against Israel, according to a new report by the Israeli Alma Research and Education Center.

It remains unclear whether Hamas is working in tandem with Hezbollah and Iran, but since nothing in Lebanon takes place without the tacit support of the Shi’ite terror group and its patron Iran, this must be the case.

After all, Iran is the founder of the so-called resistance axis against Israel and is supporting both organizations financially, supplying weapons and training for its members.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also addressed the situation in Lebanon at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting and said he was sure that Iran was stirring up the tensions there.

“Every place the Iranians go enters a tailspin of violence, poverty, failure, and instability,” Bennett said adding that he hopes the Lebanese, but also the Iraqi people, will free themselves from the “suffocating grip” of Iran.

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