08/29/2008, 00.00
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Finger pointed at Hizbollah over army helicopter attack

by Paul Dakiki
Where and how the attack occurred place responsibility on the Party of God, which has not yet said anything about it. Lebanon’s governing majority wonders whether there are insuperable borders between the Republic of Lebanon and the state of Hizbollah. Two scenarios are formulated about why the incident took place.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – There is no doubt that Hizbollah men shot down a Lebanese Army helicopter yesterday afternoon, killing an officer, 1st Lieutenant Samer Hanna. The question is why. Several facts point to Hizbollah’s responsibility in the incident, starting with its location (see photo). 

The chopper came under fire in Telal Sejoud, in south Lebanon, a Hizbollah stronghold that witnessed fierce battles with Israel before the latter’s withdrawal in 2000.

Secondly, according to unofficial reconstruction of the event the helicopter was hit right after takeoff and was immediately surrounded by armed Hizbollah men who did not allow anyone to approach the crash site for half an hour, not even the Lebanese military.

Finally, there is what L’Orient le Jour daily calls “Hizbollah’s deafening sound”. In fact the latter is the only Lebanese political party not to have issue a statement on the matter.

Whatever doubts there are they are about why the incident took place. From what is known the helicopter could not have been hit by the Israelis (the border is 20 kilometres away), nor could it have been confused with an Israeli aircraft, this despite the clumsy attempt by the deputy chairman of the Higher Shia Council, Abdel Amir Kabalan, who blamed people who “infiltrated” the area and said that “taking aim at an aircraft of the Lebanese Army is an Israeli action.”

Two possible scenarios have been suggested in some political and military circles; either the chopper crossed into a no-go zone set by Hizbollah or the latter sent a warning on the eve of the appointment of the new army chief.

Given the first scenario the majority in parliament is demanding an inquiry to determine whether “the army needs an authorisation to fly over the national territory” or as the secretary general of the 14 March Movement Fares Souhaid put it, whether “there are borders between the Republic of Lebanon and the state of Hizbollah.”

If the second scenario obtains, then the incident is a warning for the new army chief reminding him that no one can be hostile to Hizbollah or think they can limit its range of action.

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