Israel destroys Hezbollah chief's HQ
Israeli forces destroyed the Beirut headquarters of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in air strikes on Saturday after again threatening to kill the Shi’ite Muslim militant leader.
“The Israeli bombardment destroyed the Hezbollah general secretariat in Haret Hreik,” the state news agency ANI said, referring to the highly fortified neighbourhood in Beirut’s southern suburbs where Hezbollah has its power base.
The stronghold has come under repeated Israeli attack by air and from warships offshore, causing panic in the densely populated streets.
“We dare not go out,” said Nada (20) the mother of a seven-month-old boy. “We have no bread and petrol in the area because everything has been closed since Wednesday.”
That day marked the start of the Israeli offensive on Beirut—and against the southern suburbs in particular. The Jewish state’s targets have included road junctions, bridges, buildings and the nearby Beirut international airport.
Nada said people living in Haret Hreik have gone to ground.
“My baby has no more milk, and I risked going out to find some at a pharmacy but it was closed,” she said sadly. “He will start crying soon but it can’t be helped—I have to give him tiny rations.”
There was no word Saturday on whether the 45-year-old Nasrallah—who declared “open war” on Israel on Friday—was inside the nine-storey building at the time of the strikes.
An Agence France-Presse correspondent said the building, which had also been
bombarded on Friday along with Nasrallah’s nearby home, remained little more than a bombed-out shell, with balconies hanging precariously off the facade and mangled furniture scattered on the rubble-strewn street below.
Nasrallah was unscathed by the Friday Israeli air strike.
“You wanted an open war, you will get an open war,” the Shi’ite militant leader said in a defiant audio message after the evening raid.
“It will be war at all levels ... to Haifa, and beyond Haifa,” he said, referring to Israel’s third largest city which commanders there said came under unprecedented rocket fire from Lebanon the day before.
The heavily guarded Haret Hreik neighbourhood, which is equipped with surveillance cameras and is off limits to outsiders, was struck several times later on Saturday by the Israeli forces.
There were no reports of casualties in the area which was cordoned off by Hezbollah militants wearing bullet-proof jackets.
Thousands of families have fled, seeking refuge in other areas which are not Hezbollah strongholds.
An Israeli minister warned on Saturday that Israel would “wipe out” Nasrallah at the first opportunity.
“He can benefit from no immunity. We will wipe him out at the first opportunity. That’s why he had better pray to Allah,” Zeev Boim, minister for immigration and an ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told public radio.
Israeli government ministers had made no bones about their desire to see the Hezbollah leader eliminated.
“Nasrallah decided his own fate,” Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On said before Friday’s air strikes. “We will settle our accounts with him when the time comes.”
Nasrallah’s predecessor Abbas al-Musawi was killed in a 1992 Israeli air strike along with his wife and three-year-old daughter.
The Israeli newspaper Maariv charged on Friday that Nasrallah, along with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Damascus-based Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal, were “perhaps even more dangerous” than Hitler, responsible for exterminating six million Jews.
Nasrallah, a charismatic orator and skilled negotiator, was elected secretary general of Hezbollah after Israel killed Musawi.
Israeli warplanes also bombarded the house of a senior Hezbollah official in the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek on Saturday. Two other air strikes targeted the Imam Ali mosque and the judicial palace in Baalbek, a main Hezbollah stronghold. - Sapa-AFP