bomb in Beirut on Thursday, January 24th 2002 killed Elie
Hobeika, whose pro-Israel militia massacred hundreds of
Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in
Lebanese group saying it opposed Syria's continued grip
on the country claimed responsibility in a faxed statement,
saying Hobeika was a traitor for switching his allegiance
to Damascus some years ago. The claim could not immediately
dead man had no shortage of Palestinian and Lebanese
enemies, but many in Beirut initially jumped to blame
the Israelis whose invading troops surrounded the camps
at the time.
died a day after saying he was ready to testify in a
case brought by Palestinians in Belgium accusing Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who denies sanctioning
the massacres when he was defense minister, of crimes
Israel denied any role in the blast which ripped through
a Beirut suburb as Hobeika was leaving home, killing
him, two bodyguards and another person and injuring
totally unfounded. We have left Lebanese territory.
We don't want to play (a role) there any more,"
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said in response
to an accusation by Marwan Hamadeh, Lebanon's minister
of displaced people.
had told reporters in Jordan:
course Israel doesn't want witnesses against it in this
historic case in Belgium which will certainly convict
Ariel Sharon, the permanent and continued criminal."
Sharon aide called his claim rubbish and a complete
gunfire erupted in Palestinian camps in Beirut after
news of Hobeika's death. It was the first killing of
a major Lebanese political figure since the 1975-1990
a group calling itself the "Lebanese For a Free
and Independent Lebanon" said in a statement faxed
to Reuters that it carried out the attack to warn Syria
to get out of Lebanon.
were no claims from better known anti-Syrian groups.
Justice sources said a car carrying 10 kg (22 lb) of
explosives blew up as it passed Hobeika's car, where
oxygen tanks fueled the blast, charring the bodies of
Hobeika and his driver and tossing others as far as
50 meters (yards).
one security source said explosives had been planted
in diving gear that Hobeika had in his own vehicle.
bodies lay scattered amid pistols and twisted hunks
of metal from cars and glass from windows shattered
by the blast.
Rescue workers rushed to extinguish fires sparked by
the bomb in nearby buildings.
is responsible for this," said Nasri Lahoud, a
Lebanese military court official, as he inspected the
sure it was the Palestinians," said one of Hobeika's
weeping neighbors, suggesting Palestinians had finally
taken revenge for the massacres.
commanded the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, which
killed hundreds of Palestinian refugees while Israeli
troops, who invaded Lebanon in 1982, encircled the two
said in July that to prove his own innocence he was
ready to testify against Sharon. He repeated the offer
on Wednesday to visiting Belgian senators. The Palestinians'
case was launched under laws giving Belgian courts powers
to try crimes against humanity, wherever they have been
1983 Israeli inquiry into the camp massacres said Sharon
bore "indirect responsibility" and that Hobeika
had helped direct Christian fighters who did the killing.
NO WORD FROM SYRIA
was no immediate reaction from Syria, with which Hobeika
maintained close ties. Lebanon has been dominated by
Syria since the civil war.
in 1957, Hobeika was also a hated figure among his one-time
allies in the Christian Lebanese Forces, who saw him
as a traitor for switching his alliance to Syria during
leader of the Christian Phalange party, whose then head,
the Israeli-backed Bashir Gemayel, died in a 1982 bombing,
said the manner of Hobeika's death reopened a grim chapter
in Lebanese history.
Party chairman Karim Pakradouni said: "It takes
us back 20 years, to the practices of the war."Earlier
on Thursday, Israel voiced new fears that a regional
conflict could flare in the Middle East after the first
cross-border attacks in more than three months by Lebanese
Hizbollah guerrillas backed by Syria and Iran.
Hizbollah fired rockets and mortar bombs at Israeli
military positions for the first time since October,
Israel sent warplanes on raids into southern Lebanon
one was hurt and such incidents have failed in the past
to ignite a wider conflict, although they have fueled
tension between Israel and Hizbollah's backers -- Syria
has the potential to bring about not only a local clash
on the northern border but a regional flareup,"
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told army
new tension at the border could complicate U.S.-led
efforts to bring peace to the Middle East after the
deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis and Palestinians
since the start of a Palestinian uprising against occupation
in September 2000.