Hezbollah stages coup drills in Beirut as indictments loom, newspapers say
A pro-Hezbollah cleric spray paints his family name on a banner in Sidon supporting caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
January 19th, 2011
11:16 AM ET

Hezbollah stages coup drills in Beirut as indictments loom, newspapers say

Militants fanned out across Beirut and reportedly staged coup drills as political unrest continued to percolate in the country, Lebanese and Israeli media outlets reported.

Operatives from Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite groups, gathered in groups of up to 30 at a dozen strategic points in the Lebanese capital Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post said.  Included were sea ports, the airport and entries to the city, the newspaper reported.

Though Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of Hezbollah’s political bureau, told The Post he wasn’t aware of any such drills, parents pulled their children from school after seeing people dressed in black and carrying hand-held radios.

A mother of three picking up her children in the Hamra area of the capital said the school contacted her “because the security situation is not good,” The Daily Star in Beirut reported.

One gathering was about 400 yards from the Grand Serall, downtown Beirut’s government seat, forcing security officials to close the roads to the building, The Post said.  The men were unarmed and no trouble was reported, according to various media.

Sources told The Daily Star that the men appeared well-organized and were seen in west Beirut, downtown and in the southern suburb of Hadath.

The drill came as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sat down for talks with Lebanese politicians, including Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, aimed at heading off sectarian strife in the country, The Daily Star reported.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is also involved in the talks, and he met with Lebanese Army Gen. Jean Kahwaji to discuss a potential role for the Syrian army in achieving security and stability in Lebanon, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said.

An earlier joint mediation effort by Syria and Saudi Arabia fell apart this week, and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told al-Arabiya that his nation abandoned its efforts because the situation was dangerous.

“If the situation reaches full separation and (regional) partition, this means the end of Lebanon as a state that has this model of peaceful cohabitation between religions and ethnicities,” al-Faisal told the station.

A coalition led by caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri viewed the drills as a rehearsal for what might happen if Hezbollah is accused of involvement in the bombing that killed Hariri’s father and 22 others in 2005, according to The Daily Star.

“The orchestrated gatherings carried out by members of Hezbollah and its allies for more than two hours … were aimed at sending a clear message to the Lebanese about preparations to stage riots and also a similar message to the Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers who are visiting Lebanon today,” Hariri’s Movement of the Future said in a statement.

The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon handed down a draft indictment that Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said indicts several Hezbollah members in the assassination. The International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, has not released specifics of the indictment for fear of provoking violence in Beirut.

The tribunal has no police force and relies on national authorities to arrest suspects, something Hezbollah has said it would never do, according to Haaretz.

Hezbollah has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombing and says the tribunal is an “American-Israeli tool” for stoking sectarian violence in Lebanon, The Daily Star reported.

A source close to Hezbollah further told the newspaper that Tuesday’s drills were “a small message to say that the time for talk is over.”

Other sources close to Hezbollah told The Jerusalem Post that the drills were “a real exercise to test the readiness of any such plan to take over Beirut and its periphery, including entries, the port, waters and the airport.”

The Post cited another source who said that Hezbollah wants to avoid a civil war like the one that killed tens of thousands in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. Rather, the group would prefer to “deal directly with the U.N. and the International Court.”

The U.N. building in central Beirut could be one of Hezbollah’s future targets, a source told the newspaper.

Eleven members of Hariri’s 30-member Cabinet resigned last week as the prime minister was meeting U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. The move brought down Lebanon’s unity government and prompted several mediation efforts.

Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, had been pressuring the government to reject the tribunal’s investigation into the bombing that killed Hariri’s father, who resigned as prime minister the year before his death.

Hezbollah blames the bombing on Israel, while many Lebanese people have blamed Syria, which had immense influence in Lebanon at the time.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Israel • Lebanon • Politics • Protest • Qatar • Saudi Arabia • Security • State Department • Syria • Turkey • United Nations
soundoff (289 Responses)
  1. dave

    Hezbollah. Arabic for Iranian Guard.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arab Voice

      WOW..you made me laugh...i suppose you're a linguist now!! who's the idiot who told you it means Iranian Guard? why don't you look it up or ask an Arab what it means EXACTLY...?

      January 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Arab voice: yeah, that was sarcasm. Not literally. I wouldn't waste my time looking up Arabic words. Hezbollah =terrorist.
      So, you're a big defender of Hezbollah eh? A terrorist organization with proven, strong links to Iran. They'll get what coming to them, as will you if you're a member.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • J100409

      Just for clarification: Hezbollah means "the party of god." Their function is to be the Arab auxiliary of the Iranian revolutionary Guards.

      January 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • crawbar

      Hezbollah is known and admitted by most of the countries as a terrorist organization. In Arabic it means a party of God probably meaning that they respect Islam and follow it. Here comes the peacefulness of Islam... How can anybody open their mouths and speak about peacefulness of the Islam?

      But, after all, many religious books contain some violent recommendations. After all, they were written in ancient times. What counts is how the Islamists interpret Islam and justify their actions which they say are in full accordance with Islam. Allkhu akbar!

      January 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jesus Padilla

    I'm in agreement with "Anon" about Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah all being terrorist groups and that they all should be considered very dangerous to the freedom of not only the US but of all other freedom-loving countries. They need to be dealt with in the appropriate manner and be made to be held accountable for their actions.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arab Voice

      did you ask yourself why such organisations exist? I'll tell you why...they are the result of occupation, corruption, dictatorships supported by the US and its allies. You are simply turning on Fox news and CNN and simply repeating what's being said. get your information right...for 100 years this region has been either under occupation or ruled by corrupt dictators supported and blessed by the US and its allies. Surely you'd feel the same way if you were part of this area.

      January 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      Many of us in the West are fully cognizant of the blame that western nations bear in the situation in the Mideast. That doesn't change the fact that before us it was Mideastern powers that were corrupt exploitative dictators that oppressed the Mideast. Life is. Get over it and let go of the past. Make your own mistakes and stop making your grandfather's mistakes.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • crawbar

      Arab Voice continues to spill here Islamist propaganda which is as usual for this type of propaganda very stupid and counted only on stupid people as Islamists themselves.
      Islamists lie and believe their own lies.

      January 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TJmaxwell

    It's all about power and money, that is the way for thousands of years. But I do have to say "I love their little sound bites"........if you do something to us we will cut off the hand that feeds you, I always wondered if that was the same hand that they wipe their a$$es with as well as pick their noses???? Yikes, go Islam

    January 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jesus Padilla

    To "sticksnstones": ARE YOU F@%&ING SERIOUS?!?!

    January 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. egyptians christian

    Islam ,, peace !!!! Where in ur @%*% book the peace word was mention, killing every where, thats all wt u did all over for everyone who dares to be any other religon than u or if he had other idea. U under ur islaaaam killed christian in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria. And for God sake tell me when or where in ur dam Quraan Peace word was mention. We r waiting tell us 1 story about peace u ever made. I think we gana wait 4 ever

    January 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • bleh

      yes and they do not even realize they are sons of Jews and Christians who were just converted to Islam because of the policy "Death or Islam" that's why the fanatics spread fast. their ancestors chose to live because they trusted them to wake up themselves in the future. they do not even realize they are dishonoring their ancestors by not waking up what a shame...

      January 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Observer

    I hear Lebanon is a beautiful country. It would be a shame if militant Islam took over there. You'd see the monuments destroyed and the quality of life immediately diminish. I hope the Lebanese people are smarter than to allow that.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      I was there in the early 1970s and Lebanon WAS a beatiful country. Hezbollah and similar groups have torn it apart and it will take generations to rebuild.

      January 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Hezbollah just sort of took over where the PLO left off in the 70's/80's. Both militant Islamist organizations that have ruined the country during their reigns of terror.

      January 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Small Business Dog Days

    Hezbollah is a terrorist group LOL. They have been behind dozens of suicide bombings that target CIVILIANS, not soldiers. The people like Hezbollah, because their fundamentalistic ideologies are brainwashed into them in the mosques. Moreover, the democratic governments are corrupt, and Hezbollah offers hospitals, day care centers, everything the actual government is supposed to do. However, by also strapping bombs onto their citizen's waists, they are helping to keep the people alive in order to kill them for their cause.

    Last time I checked, strapping a bomb around one's waist and walking into a civilian area just to terrorize a neighboring country is TERRORISM.

    Is al-Quada not a terrorist group either?

    Calling Muslim suicide bombers freedom fighters is the biggest sham either. What about the Islamic faith is free? Stoning people for speaking bad about the religion? Stomping on teenage girl's heads for dating a boy from a different faith? Hanging gays in village square?

    Dying to instill oppressive sharia law does not make one a freedom fighter. It makes them a satanic oppressor.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • bleh

      sad but so true...

      January 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jack sheet

    Israel was never a threat to Lebanon, and were only forced to invade in 1980 to uproot the Palestinian militia that was using Lebanon for attacks against Israel. Hezballa claims to defend Lebanon against Israel, but their existance inside Lebanon invites Israeli aggression against Lebanon. Hezballa is an answer to a self created problem. That said, it is too late. Lebanon is doomed. Hezballa is probably the 2nd most powerful army in the region (after Israel) and they have set their eyes on ruling Lebanon. Sorry, fellow Lebanese people, our carelessness was our downfall.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. richunix

    JAY: The bottom line is the Hezbollah’s is a terrorist organization and its members are criminals. Just because they try to show (and with some success) they are helping Lebanon, they’re not. They are the worst of criminals, they cry wolf when Israel is bombing them back to the stone age and no they didn’t win ANY conflict as they would like for you to believe, in fact was the opposite…they were chased back to the capital…then the cowardly crying came….Look at Big bad Israel, there killing civilians, when we try to hide behind them. I’m wondering is Gimto has room for some more Arab Wack-jobs.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. vs

    Hezbollah, the "Party of God" are made up of people who follow Islam the purported "religion of peace". When they take control of Lebanon, the country will be transformed into the "place of eternal bliss". Perhaps they could invite the Taliban to join in the joyous celebration. Can't wait to see the results of this "divine" intervention.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • J100409

      Hezbollah and the Taliban would not get along well in the same country. One is Shiite and one Sunni. Salafis (the form of Sunni extremists who make up the Taliban) think Shiites are worse than non-Muslims.

      January 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • bleh

      yes there will be peace because they will kill and destroy themselves but they should not do that in Lebanon they should leave them alone the country has potential for success

      January 19, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LebaneseChristian

    I really hope Isreal will blow Hezbollah to bits and pieces, because it's bye bye Lebanon if they take over, especially for the Christians there.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      And frankly Lebanon's best hope of regional peace is with Christians or Sunnis in charge. Hezbollah, if you care about your people: LEAVE. Go crawl back to your fundamentalist Iranian masters.

      January 19, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      Based on historical patterns, the Sunnis are the most likely to treat everyone fairly. For a modern example look at Syria. Sorry all you Shiites and Christians but history shows that you don't hold up well. Look at Iran for an example. Look at the hate mongering in the right wing radical Christians in the USA for an example.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    If Hezbollah are not terrorists, I don't know who is. Clearly, this group is attempting to terrorize the people of Beirut and they are suceeding. They are a scurge on Lebanon and the world.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disgusted w/warmongers

      So is Israel...

      January 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Radu

    The best sollution for Lebanon is that each community live by its own and the common state dissappear. I think their system for chunking the political power by religious lines is absolutely childish, not to say idiotic. It is an international experiment that miserably failed by killing so many peoples. Unfortunately it seems to be implemented also in Iraq today and it follows the same path. Wake up. Sometimes if you live with a partner that hates you you should better separate

    January 19, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. EB

    The worst is when people speak as if THEY are the ones who know the real truth, and everyone else is mistaken.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LOL WUT!?

    The number of people that are unable to separate their simplistic opinion/outlook from the complex reality of this situation is staggering. When someone attempts to broaden your view by offering a state of affairs observation, that is very much true by the way, that differs from yours....try not going with the initial knee-jerk reaction. It makes you look shallow and unable to comprehend human dynamic beyond a 2nd grade interaction.

    JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T LIKE HEZBOLLAH DOES NOT MAKE IT AN EDICT THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION NEEDS TO ALIGN WITH. RIGHT OR WRONG, IT IS AN OPINION AND NEITHER OF OURS HOLDS ANY MORE TRUTH THAN THE OTHER. GET IT NOW?

    January 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
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