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. ProperVillain

    More well though out moves and rhetoric from the peace loving members of Hezbollah who just want their land back and the annihilation of an entire race of people....

    These morons are barbarians and should be banished to a nice desert island where they can fight it out all they want and leave the rest or us alone...

    January 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. OdaZ

    Make em nomads. It is clear from your comments that you are very stupid, or at least naive. I don't blame you, after all you probably aren't capable of intelligent thought. I find it funny that so many of you Arabs want to be pawns of the Iranians. They don't care about Lebanon or Hezbollah. They just use you in their dispute against Israel. Don't think for a second that Iran would risk nuclear confrontation with Israel to save your stupid people. They will gladly watch Lebanon burn. I understand your frustration. I would be frustrated too if the Israelis always destroyed my people in battle. The Arabs have lost every time they have engaged the Israelis. Maybe this is why you look to the Persians as your saviour?

    January 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. abby

    How soon before the never-ending war starts in Lebanon? Sigh.

    January 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Make them nomads

    isrealis are mostly secular russians with little to no jewish blood. There are even russian skinheads in isreal. They have no birthright. Birthright refers to the semites that lived there many years ago. THey are arab and hebrew. All those blond europeans who can trace most if not all of their ancestors to europe should stop lying

    January 19, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • bleh

      yes they are just descendants of the real Israelite because Islam destroyed and killed them and stole their own land. don't forget Israelites are your ancestors and you chose to believe to follow the people who killed your ancestors be proud of yourself until you meet them in the other world

      January 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    Hizbollah is a terror to the world and the labanice people and Isreal should take over Lebanon by force and govern it if hisbollah stage a coup of the government.Because an hisbollah government is a great threat to Isreal and the world

    January 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rick

    Nuke em all. Nuke em real good. Even the innocents. If they cant clean up their backyard, nuke em.

    January 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alan

    send in the drones....

    January 19, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CharlieSeattle

    January 3, 2011 :: Jerusalem Post :: News

    In the latest Wikileaks revelation, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi reports to a U.S. congressional delegation in 2009 that Hezbollah has 40,000 rockets that it intends to use in a future conflict with Israel, and Iran has 300 missiles of sufficient range aimed at the Jewish state. A missile launch from Iran would give Israel 10-12 minutes to respond before it reached its target.

    It is thought that Hezbollah would fire 300-400 missiles a day into Israel; they also possess a number of UAVs that they might use to strategically bomb Israel. In order to address a worst-case scenario, Israel is thus preparing for a major regional war, again in Lebanon and Gaza, so that it might easily cover lesser contingencies as well. Statements from cables also suggest that a future ground-war in Gaza and Lebanon will be more intense and less restricted than the one of 2006.


    January 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Denizen Kate

    It has become my considered opinion that the only way to achieve peace in that part of the world is to nuke it into a big sheet of glass. Don't you think maybe all those different "factions" in Lebanon, Israel, and throughout the middle east deserve each other?

    January 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dw

    Maybe one day both sides will accept that there is more to be gained through peace and trade than through animosity. I think most Israeli and Lebanese citizens already know this. But if you are into solving problems through violence, tghen here's an idea. Let's take the politicians from both sides, put them in a room and let them beat the hell out of each other.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sittingbull

    Next stop blame Israel..

    January 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave254

    Coup? What is left to overthrow?!

    January 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dw

    Can anyone tell me how many Jews there are living in Lebanon, Iran and Syria, or what percentage of the population they comprise?

    January 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • J100409

      Almost none in Lebanon and Syria since the 1950's. Only a small community left in Iran (a few thousand) since the 1980's.

      January 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. cosmo21

    ..Ironically, the man whose spray-painting Hariri's picture is not Shia Muslim, he is a Sunni-Salafist Muslim in the city of Saida, which is a predominantly Sunni...

    Hariri is losing grounds among his followers. He is politically unmatured and yet to develope a thick skin to enable him navigate the very complex Lebanese and regional politics. He mostly relies on very tight Groupthink advisors of whom themselves proxies for regional and international power brokers. That is by the way, is the same for most politicians in Lebanon.

    ....Hariri, himself, for now, is just the front man for his masters–the Saudis.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Proud Shia

    I am a proud Lebanese Shia, whose family comes from Kesawar until we were persecuted and forces into the South. My entire village in South Lebanon is poor and war torn. We get no help from the government only NGOs and the Hizb.

    This is to the Lebanese and Lebanese only. How long did you oppress the Shia, turn your back on us, leave us to live with no chances at education and no basic necessities? Why did you invite Israel to bomb our neighborhoods (30, 000 killed in 1982) and occupy our land (Sourh Lebanon) for 18 years with no opposition? You turned your back on us, you hypocrites, and now did you expect to hug and kiss you as though we were best friends? You complain about the Hizb but the only innocents killed and affected by the 2006 war were the Shia while you enjoyed your party time in Beirut. You never treated us as Lebanese, so why should we?

    You reap what you sow

    January 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • J100409

      Wow, a completely honest and almost completely accurate post in a Middle East discussion board. Are these allowed?

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