Gas canisters and games: Blast in south Beirut raises eyebrows
Posted on August 5, 2011
With all the riveting news spewing from Beirut dailies concerning a draft law on maritime borders and Lebanon’s decision to disassociate itself from a U.N. Security Council statement condemning ongoing protest crackdowns in Syria, you may have missed this.
Last week, there was a small and largely overlooked explosion in south Beirut which, at least in south Beirut, set some chins wagging. Hezbollah – the group that controls large pockets of the southern suburbs, or dahiyeh as the area is loosely referred to, was quick to point out that the blast was nothing more sinister than an exploding gas canister. Sure, one person was injured, the party said, but that’s to be expected in a country where virtually nothing is done to monitor fuel safety. Right?
Then a report emerged in Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida. (Here’s a redacted version on el-Nasra, Google translate it). It claimed that the explosion had targeted either one of three Hezbollah members: Samir Kuntar, Mustapha Mughniyeh, or… Hassan Nasrallah! Yes, that’s the Hassan Nasrallah, the party’s secretary general, Lebanon figurehead and all-round worshipped Shiite leader.
Whenever you hear reports like this, based on information supposedly sourced from Israel, the initial – and I would argue correct – reaction is one of skepticism. There have, after all, been several reports in the past that Nasrallah has survived previous attempts on his life.
The so-called October 2008 poisoning was probably a fabrication. It is likely that al-Jarida’s report falls into this category. But not so fast. Several Kuwaiti dailies, such as al-Jarida, al-Rai and al-Siyyesseh, have very good Hezbollah sources, dating back to the imprisonment of party operatives in Kuwait following the 1990 Iraqi invasion of the tiny gulf state.
It’s no small coincidence that the papers in Kuwait are often the first or only to report incidents relating to Hezbollah; the party is rarely moved to deny such reports given their limited reach and the near-impossibility of verification.
Granted, the security reality has changed and Nasrallah keeps himself hidden most of the time. But is it inconceivable an explosion in south Beirut could have targeted the Hezbollah leader? No. We know, by its own admission, that the party has been infiltrated.
In addition, we know that Hezbollah has previously blamed the combustion of domestic white goods for something far less innocent, such as the explosion in Shehabiyeh in 2010.
I’m not saying that al-Jarida should be believed. I’m saying there’s probably more to this story than meets the eye. Agreed?