Der Spiegel’s revelation of Hezbollah’s alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri remains in the media spotlight.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has accused Israel of being behind the supposedly false report, but the journalist who wrote the report is standing behind it.
“Every single word is the truth,” said Erich Follath, the journalist who authored the report.
The article was published, probably not coincidently, just two weeks before the Lebanese parliamentary elections, which a Shiite-Christian bloc under Mr. Nasrallah’s leadership is now participating in. The high echelons in the movement fear an attempt to connect them to the assassination could affect the voter’s choice.
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Mr. Hariri, who was killed in a major explosion on Feb. 14, 2005, was popular among many sectors in the population, not just among Sunnis.
“This is an exceedingly dangerous article,” admitted Mr. Nasrallah in a speech aired earlier this week. “We regard it as an Israeli accusation.”
He added that the event that set off the Lebanese Civil War in April 1975 was no less severe.
The report in the German magazine detailed the role played by Hezbollah intelligence operatives in the operation and essentially exonerated the prime suspect to date – the Syrian leadership.
Mr. Follath says he based his report on documents from the U.N. tribunal established to investigate the Hariri assassination. He insists the documents are authentic and that he double-checked every fact before publishing his report.
“I am pleased with Hassan Nasrallah’s assault against me,” he told the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. “Today I am more confident than ever about the article.”
Israel fears Mr. Nasrallah’s bloc will strengthen and score a significant hold over Lebanon. As a result, Israel has expressed its concern over Vice President Joe Biden’s statement the U.S. government plans to give the Lebanese military equipment, including tanks and warplanes.
Media outlets in Lebanon have reported the equipment will be transferred regardless of the election’s outcome in order to strengthen the Lebanese military against hostile forces.
Senior officials in the security establishment said in recent days: “Every weapon making its way to Lebanon will make its way to Hezbollah when the time has come.”
Another Israeli security source said: “Hezbollah is the dominant military force. The American declaration is testimony of its lack of understanding of the events in Lebanon.”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org