Hizballah-friendly neighbourhood names Beirut street after suspected Hariri assassin

Hizballah-friendly neighbourhood names Beirut street after suspected Hariri assassin
A Beirut street has been named after a Hizballah military commander, and one of the main suspects in Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
2 min read
18 September, 2018
Badreddine was a Hizballah commander and a main suspect in Hariri’s February 2005 assassination [Twitter]
A council in south Beirut neighbourhood known for its support for Hizballah, has named a stree after the chief suspect in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, just as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) holds its closing sessions in the trial of the assassins.

Ghobeiri municipality, in Beirut's southern suburb, on Monday - considered a bastion of support for powerful Shia militia Hizballah - issued a statement defending a controversial decision to name a street after Mustafa Badreddine, a former commander in the movement.

The decision drew in Lebanon's caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who is aligned to Hariri's son and current premier, Saad.

Machnouk said the move "threatens public order", and vowed to remove the sign bearing the street name, according to Lebanon's The Daily Star.

But the Ghobeiri council said the decision was "legal and sound and lawful" and did not need the interior minister's approval since over a year has passed since the request for the name change was filed.

Social media users criticised the timing of the decision as images circulated of the street sign, triggering an online clash between Hizballah supporters and detractors.

Badreddine was a Hizballah military commander and one of the chief suspects in Hariri's February 2005 assassination. Charges were dropped after he was reportedly killed fighting in Syria in 2016. 

Hizballah said at the time that Badreddine had been killed by "takfiri" groups (a term used by the group to describe all combatant forces fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime) following rebel shelling close to Damascus' International Airport.

Israel, however, claims he was killed by Iranian agents after a falling out, something that was denied by Hizballah.

The assassination of Hariri, who was Lebanon's Sunni Muslim prime minister until his resignation in October 2004, was a pivotal moment in the country's history.

Fingers quickly pointed at Syria after a militant detonated a van packed with tonnes of explosives next to his armoured convoy on the Beirut seafront on Valentine's Day in 2005.

The bombing triggered a wave of mass protests against Damascus' rule, which led to the departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon after a 30-year presence.

Following his death, Hariri's son, Saad, became premier.

A tribunal into the killing - which was set up in 2009 - eventually handed down indictments naming four alleged members of Hizballah, which although backed by Iran and Syria, is Lebanon-based.

Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah has previously dismissed the tribunal as a "US-Israeli plot" and vowed to never hand over any of the defendants to the international court.