Israeli Airstrike in Naameh
On Friday 23 August, Israeli warplanes struck an area twenty kilometers south of Beirut, targeting a base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC). Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon claimed that the airstrike was in response to four rockets that were fired into Israel from southern Lebanon less than twenty-four hours before the airstrike. The four rockets that were fired from southern Lebanon on 22 August caused no casualties, with one of the rockets being intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. While the PFLP-GC’s building was targeted, the missile actually hit meters away from the entrance of the building, according to a journalist from The Daily Star in Lebanon. The airstrike left a five-meter crater, but there were no reports of casualties or any damage to the building.
Abu Imad Ramez Mustafa, an official for the PFLP-GC, said the airstrike had nothing to do with the four rockets that struck Israel. In fact, an al-Qa‘ida affiliated group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for firing the rockets from an area not far from the Rashidieh Palestinian refugee camp near Tyre in southern Lebanon. More so, Israeli officials blamed a “global jihad terror organization,” an almost certain reference to al-Qai‘da. Despite these facts, Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner claimed that the airstrike that struck the PFPL-GC site was “in response to the rocket barrage.”
The Lebanese government immediately condemned the rocket attacks on Israel on Thursday, with both President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Nagib Mikati calling the attack a violation of UN Resolution 1701—which is the resolution that put into effect a ceasefire in Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon. President Sleiman also denounced Israel’s response, and called for Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to file a complaint to the United Nations. His office stated that, "Border violations are a matter settled by the UNIFIL panel of inquiry and not by aggression and violation of Lebanese sovereignty as Israel did in Naameh”.
Car Bombs in Tripoli
Also on Friday 23 August, two car bombs went off in Tripoli as Friday prayers came to a close. Both bombs targeted Sunni mosques, killing at least forty-two people, and injuring over three hundred. The attack is considered to be the deadliest bomb attack Lebanon has experienced since the civil war. The twin bombings took place approximately one week after a car bomb detonated in Ruwais in Beirut, that left at least sixteen people dead, and over two hundred injured.
The first blast struck outside the al-Taqwa Mosque. Its imam, Salafi cleric Sheikh Salem Rafei, is a staunch opponent of Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Asad in Syria. On 2 April 2013, Rafei escaped an assassination attempt after a gunman entered the mosque and shot at him. The second blast on Friday took place in the al-Mina area, near the Salam Mosque. The imam of that mosque, Sheikh Bilal Baroudi, is also a staunch opponent of Hezbollah and the Asad regime in Syria.
Both Sheikh Baroudi and Sheikh Rafei spoke to a crowd after the mosques were cleared. Rafei said, “Tripoli will be the only city in Lebanon that has security provided by its people,” echoing the general consensus among Tripoli residents calling for local militias to “secure” Tripoli. In fact, Hezbollah has been doing so in the Dahiyyeh following last week’s attack. Rafei accused the Syrian regime of carrying out the attacks, and called on Hezbollah to stop aiding the al-Asad regime and to withdraw its forces from Syria.
In a televised interview, Sheikh Dai al-Islam al-Chahal, a founder the Salafist movement in Lebanon, accused the Syrian regime of carrying out both the car bombs in Tripoli, as well as the car bomb that previously occurred in Dahiyyeh: “The Syrian regime is the one who carried out the southern suburbs blast, in order to save Hezbollah from the big predicament they are in. The Shi‘ites are sacrificing themselves for [Syrian President] Bashar al-Asad.”
Hezbollah released an official statement condemning the attacks in Tripoli, and warning people about false accusations: “These terrorist blasts are part of the criminal scheme aiming to sow strife among the Lebanese and drag them into civil strife under sectarian banners, which serves the regional-international scheme seeking to fragment our region and drown it in seas of blood and fire.” The statement also called on, “all wise people to preserve the rhetoric of awareness and wisdom and not to heed rumors and accusations seeking destruction for the country and its people.”
According to the Lebanese National News Agency, President Michel Sleiman called for the military, security, and judicial entities of Lebanon to rigorously investigate the incident and put the perpetrators to justice. He also called for the Lebanese people to unite and resist against any attempts of creating strife.
On Saturday 24 August, Lebanese security forces arrested someone they claimed they suspected of being connected to the attacks. The suspect was identified as Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghareeb, who has ties to a Sunni organization that has good relations with Hezbollah, according to the Lebanese National News Agency. He was taken into custody from his home, in an area just outside of Tripoli.
News Reports on Israeli Airstrike
News Reports on Tripoli Bombings