The Shia Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has announced that one of its commanders was killed outside his house in Beirut, and an Israeli official denied accusations of being behind the assasination.
“Around midnight on Tuesday, one of the commanders of resistance, Hassan Al Laqis, was assassinated in front of his house in the Saint Therese district of Hadath, as he returned from work,” the group said in a statement published on Wednesday.
“The direct accusation falls on the enemy Israel,” the statement said, without giving any details on the operation.
Lebanese security officials told AP that assailants opened fire on Al Laqis with an assault rifle while he was in his car, parked at the residential building where he lived, some two miles (three kilometers) southwest of the capital.
He was rushed to a nearby hospital but died early Wednesday from his wounds, the officials said, according to the news agency. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Al Laqis’ funeral took place on Wednesday in Baalbeck, in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley.
The statement described Al Laqis, who was in his forties, of “spending all his life and youth in the noble resistance,” adding that he was targeted by Israel “again and again and in many places.”
“The Israeli enemy is naturally directly to blame,” the statement said. “This enemy must shoulder complete responsibility and repercussions for this ugly crime and its repeated targeting of leaders and cadres of the resistance.”
Al Laqis was also, according to the statement, a father of a son who died during the monthlong war between Hezbollah and its arch-foe enemy Israel in 2006, in which at least 1,100 people were killed in southern Lebanon and 165 in Israel.
However, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied Israeli involvement.
“Israel has nothing to do with this incident,” Palmor said. “These automatic accusations are an innate reflex with Hezbollah. They don’t need evidence, they don’t need facts, they just blame anything on Israel.”
Israel’s spy service has been suspected of assassinating Hezbollah commanders for more than two decades. In 1992, Israeli helicopter gunships ambushed the motorcade of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Abbas Musawi, killing him, his wife, 5-year-old son and four bodyguards. Eight years earlier, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Ragheb Harb was gunned down in south Lebanon.
But one of the biggest blows for the group came in 2005 when Imad Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah military commander, was killed by a bomb that ripped through his car in Damascus.
Al Laqis’ assassination happened shortly after the movement’s leader Hassan Nasrallah appeared in an interview on Lebanon’s private OTV network, in which he accused Saudi Arabia of being behind last month’s twin bombings that targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing 23 people.
The Shia group is seen to have played a pivotal role in dragging the multi-religion Lebanon into the Syrian two-and-a-half year war by openly backing and sending fighters to fight alongside the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, against mostly Sunni rebels seeking his overthrow.