IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi ordered ground forces, Navy and Israel Air Force (IAF) personnel to be on alert along the northern border and elsewhere as the second most powerful leader of the Hizbullah terrorist organization was buried in Beirut on Thursday.
At the same time, on the other side of the Lebanese capital, pro-Western loyalists gathered for a memorial to mark the third anniversary of the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, the most wanted Hizbullah fugitive in the world, was assassinated in a car bombing late Tuesday night in Damascus.
Israeli security agencies were expecting Hizbullah terrorists to attack Jewish and Israeli targets after the killing, although not necessarily within the Jewish State. Israelis abroad have been warned that terrorists will attempt to step up kidnapping attempts, and that they should keep their distance from large gatherings of Israelis.
Israel on Alert
Ashkenazi issued a statement saying, “The IDF is following developments and taking the necessary precautions,” but offered no further details. Israeli officials offered no information as to how long the state of alert would remain in effect.
By mid-morning Thursday, tens of thousands of Lebanese were beginning to mass in the capital for both ironically related events.
Pro-Syrian Hizbullah loyalists flocked to the terrorist organization’s south Beirut stronghold to attend Mughniyeh’s funeral. The Dachya neighborhood was packed with mourners who accompanied the coffin of one of the world’s most elusive terrorists. It has been said that he never slept twice in a row in the same place, did not allow himself to be photographed, underwent plastic surgery on his face - twice, and left buildings via a window, not a door.
Iran, Hizbullah’s top patron, sent Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to attend Mughniyeh’s funeral and later pay his respects to the arch-terrorist’s family. Mughniyeh was Hizbullah’s liaison to the Islamic Republic.
Hizbullah, Iran and Syria held Israel responsible for the assassination, as did most of the rest of the Arab world.
Nasrallah, Scared, Delivers Video Speech
Hizbullah chief terrorist Hassan Nasrallah eulogized his top deputy in a pre-recorded speech from his own hideout in an underground bunker. Nasrallah has been holed up since the end of the Second Lebanon War, fearing assassination by the long arm of Israeli justice.
“Zionists, if you want this type of open war then let the whole world hear: Let it be an open war,” Nasrallah announced. “In every future war there won’t be one Imad or a few thousand fighters, but tens of thousands of loyal fighters who are willing to die as mourners,” he warned.
Jerusalem issued an official statement formally denying involvement in the incident, but was equally clear that the murder was considered a positive event.
The United States welcomed news of the killing. Mughniyeh had been on the FBI’s 20 Most Wanted list, with a $5 million price tag on his head. "The world is a better place without this man in it," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. "One way or another he was brought to justice."
"Car bombings were Imad Mughniyeh's specialty," noted the National Post of Canada. "During his quarter-century as a master terrorist, he sent explosive-laden vehicles to blow up embassies, military barracks and even a community center. It was perhaps only fitting that when he met his demise in Damascus it was in a sudden concussive burst of gas and flames--a bomb planted in a parked Mitsubishi Pajero."
He was wanted by both Israel and America for masterminding numerous terrorist attacks in which hundreds of people were killed in the Middle East and South America.
Pro-Westerners Gather to Remember Hariri
While the terrorist supporters gathered in south Beirut, a second crowd gathered on the other side of the Lebanese capital for a rally marking the third anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The pro-Western leader, like Mughniyeh, was murdered in a car bombing. The US and many others in the local and international arena hold Syria responsible for Hariri’s assassination.
Trying to keep the two crowds away from each other as well as maintain peace within each were tens of thousands of Lebanese army regulars, who were deployed throughout the city and along the major arteries. Schools and other public institutions in Beirut were closed.