Tue, Jul 20, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Senior Hezbollah figure killed in Beirut bombing

ZIONISTS BLAMED Ghalib Awali of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hizbollah was killed as he left his home. An official of the group said Israel was behind the attack

REUTERS , BEIRUT

A Lebanese soldier inspects damage inside a car after a bomb exploded in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon yesterday. Ghaleb Awali, an official of the Hezbollah militia, was killed in the explosion.

PHOTO: AP

A bomb killed a senior member of Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah in the southern suburbs of Beirut yesterday in an attack the group blamed on Israel.

Witnesses said the wreckage of a Mercedes car lay in the road, its glass shattered. Blood stained the road beside it.

In a statement, Hezbollah said the blast killed Ghalib Awali -- who it called "part of the Islamic Resistance's cadre" -- as he left his home. Hezbollah's TV station, which interrupted programming to announce the blast, called him a member of the group's leadership.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

A Hezbollah official, which played a leading role in helping to end Israel's 22-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000, pointed the finger at the Jewish state and hinted at retribution.

"It is an attempt to destabilize the resistance and Lebanon, and we see in it the hand of the Zionist enemy," Sheikh Hassan Ezzeddine said. "The enemy bears complete responsibility for what it has done."

Israel assassinated the group's leader Abbas al-Mussawi in 1992 in an air strike on his car, and Lebanon has tried and convicted several people in recent years of spying on and plotting against the Iranian and Syrian-backed group.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, which in recent months has stepped up its rhetoric against Hezbollah, calling the group a major backer of Palestinian militants in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The blast recalled the killings of two Lebanese whom Israel accused of links to Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Locals blamed those killings on Israel's Mossad, a charge the Jewish state neither confirmed nor denied.

A car bomb last year in the same part of Beirut killed a Hezbollah member whom security sources and witnesses had identified as an employee of the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital.

Since helping drive Israel from south Lebanon, Hezbollah brokered a swap of the remains of Israeli soldiers it captured in a disputed border zone and a reservist it abducted for Lebanese captives in Israel, including senior Hezbollah figures.

The group has vowed to secure the release of Samir al-Qantar, a Lebanese held over the killing of four Israelis in 1979, for which Israel demands information about the fate of Ron Arad, an Israeli airman who went missing while bombing Lebanon in 1986.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has said the group would kidnap more Israelis if Qantar was not released.

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