affiliated Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar has led a journalistic investigation into the 2008 assassination of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh.
The report, which ends with the somber tears of his mother, has turned up new details regarding the operation in Damascus that left the senior commander of the Shiite group dead.
The report, published on Tuesday, points an accusatory finger at Israel's Mossad intelligence
agency, but it also cites a Syrian national ex-patriot, as well as Lebanese locals, as assisting in the operation.
After the Second Lebanon War,
Mughniyeh was charged with rehabilitating Hezbollah's fighting capabilities and weaponry. "Damascus was the main station for the task, which meant that (he) had to intensify his travel to and from Syria," the online newspaper claimed.
"At the time, Mughniyeh, much like many operatives… treated Syria
as one of the safest places. There was a presumption that Israel
would not target Syria through direct operations," the paper explained, claiming there was an "implicit laxity" which de-facto created the possibility for his imminent assassination.
The martyr (Photo: Reuters)
Unlike previous reports which claimed Mughniyeh had visited his lover before the assassination, Al-Akhbar has argued that "On the evening of 12 February 2008, Mughniyeh had just finished a meeting with some of the most senior Palestinian leaders" in the Kfar Sousa neighborhood of Syria's capital Damascus.
According to the report "They had discussed ways to develop the capacities of the Palestinian resistance inside Palestine, and Gaza in particular."
At the culmination of the meeting, at 10:15 pm, he left the building and proceeded to his car, which was parked in a rectangular parking lot, which serviced the adjacent buildings.
"The explosion was heard around 10:20 pm. Some people rushed to the location, including those Mughniyeh had just met. It turned out that when Mughniyeh had stepped out of the building's main gate, a 2006 silver Mitsubishi Pajero 4x4 parked nine meters away exploded, killing him alone, on the spot."
Ground-zero (Photo: AFP)
According to the paper, two simultaneous investigations were launched in the wake of the assassination -one by Hezbollah and the other by the Lebanese authorities.
The Al-Akhbar report is predominantly based on the results of the Hezbollah investigation and, according to the paper, "Hezbollah was absolutely certain that Israel was behind the crime."
According to the paper, "Extensive (Hezbollah) investigations revealed the role of Israel and its direct responsibility for the assassination. They showed that the Mossad, which was under the leadership of Meir Dagan
at the time, was responsible for the operation from A to Z."
Regarding the Mossad's alleged preparations, "Direct planning inside and outside Syria took almost one month after a much longer period of indirect preparations," the paper said citing "sources knowledgeable of the case."
It further claimed that "The investigations also revealed that the Mossad had charged some of its local operatives with capturing extensive images of Kfar Sousa, detailing every street and focusing on the block where the assassination took place. "
Specifically the article noted that the reconnaissance revealed that "The building itself only had two exits, one on the ground floor and one in the basement.
"The investigations also showed that local Mossad agents reported the existence of a building under construction with some completed but unfurnished apartments. The enemy, as it turned out, carried out the operation from the structure since it looked onto the rectangle and the targeted building," the paper said.
However, despite "the enemy's" preparation, at the center of the action is in fact a Syrian national.
"The Mossad recruited a Syrian expat who visited his country often, and asked him to move to Damascus to provide logistics for the operation.
"The (Syrian) agent was provided with a villa to hide the vehicle and affix it with explosives, in addition to accommodations for the group that carried out the operation," the report said, adding that he was also charged with putting up an iron fence to block the entrance from the parking lot.
Samir Kuntar paying his respects (Photo: AP)
"A while later, the agent went back to Syria and bought a Mitsubishi Pajero 4x4, after learning Mughniyeh (and others) sometimes drive (cars with) the same make. The execution team used a different model, a Mitsubishi Lancer, due to its popularity in Syria in general."
Contradicting other reports claiming the explosives were placed in the driver's seat's head rest, Al-Akhbar claims "The Pajero, now parked in the villa, was equipped with explosives in its trunk door.
"It was later discovered that, in addition to the explosives, the bomb contained metal pellets that can cause extensive damage to the target instantaneously. The device was similar to several bombs used by Israel to assassinate resistance leaders in Lebanon and abroad."
Regarding the identity of the hit-squad, the paper wrote: "The investigators and people close to the file are very secretive about the implementation team. But there are indicators that show that they were not Syrian citizens and that they had traveled in and out of the country to implement the operation."
"In the early afternoon of 12 February 2008, one of the implementers drove the Pajero, equipped with explosives in its trunk door, and parked it outside the building frequented by Mughniyeh.
"At dusk, the team of four individuals took the getaway Lancer and went upstairs to observe the parking lot, the target, and the vehicle with the explosives. They chose an apartment on the sixth floor. One of them surveyed the area with binoculars, another was charged with detonating the explosives, and the third was for protection. The fourth waited in the getaway car parked at the back of the building close to the fence."
Afterwards, at 10:20 pm, "Mughniyeh exited the building and, as soon as he reached the well-lit lot nine meters away from the Pajero, the bomb was detonated and he was killed instantly. The implementing team left the building and headed toward their getaway car."
According to the report, "They immediately drove toward the highway where they parked the car on the side of the road and left behind some items for distraction. The investigations showed that the implementing team faced a problem while escaping, which led them to leave the car and use another to escape to an unknown location."
In a separate report, the paper described the personal angle of his assassination. "On Sunday 10 February 2008, Imad Mughniyeh went to his parents’ home. He was there for the family’s regular weekly reunion over lunch cooked by his mother Umm Imad and his wife Umm Mustafa."
As usual in the Mughniyeh household the discussion focused on family and the children, and "as usual, some of the family members present tried to get Imad to talk about his work, as always, he responded by smiling, saying nothing and returning to a different subject.
"Nobody ever knew what Imad did or where he traveled, not even after the event. The family was accustomed to his absences. Sometimes he would disappear for long periods of time before suddenly showing up.
"He gave no indication that Sunday that he was about to go away again. But the following day, Umm Mustafa told Umm Imad that he had left, apparently for Syria, and had said he would not be gone long."
According to the report, "There was nothing surprising about that. The whole family had started noticing that Imad had become increasingly busy, and in attending the weekly get-togethers, he’d try to make up for his constant absence."
The paper explains how "Everyone had heard that the Resistance was being rebuilt and restructured, but the family had no idea as to the nature of Imad’s role in that process."
"On the night of 12 February, the news broke from Damascus about a mysterious explosion in Kfar Sousa.
"Shortly afterwards, two Hezbollah officials, friends of Imad and the family, arrived," and informed the family that he was involved in an incident involving a car.
"The father at first thought Imad may have been killed in a traffic accident. But the mother got a more direct reply from the other official: Imad has been martyred."
According to the report, his mother "Umm Imad let out a scream louder than any since she had given birth. (His father) Hajj Fayez understood that Imad had been assassinated. He led his wife into a side room. There, they said prayers of thanks, and she decided to stop crying. She told herself: If the world sees me crying, that will make Imad’s killers happier.
"Hajj Fayez felt a sense of serenity, because Imad had departed in a manner befitting him, as a martyr in a struggle to which he had devoted his life. "
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