Gunmen shot dead a senior Hezbollah commander outside his home Wednesday in southern Beirut,an attack that the Iranian-backed group quickly blamed on arch-enemy Israel. Israeli officials denied any involvement.
Hezbollah ceremoniously announced the death of Hassan al-Laqis and described him as one of the founding members of the group,suggesting he was a high-level commander close to the Shiite partys leadership.
An official close to Hezbollah said al-Laqis held some of the groups most sensitive portfolios and was close to the groups leader,Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
His shooting death comes as Lebanon faces increasing sectarian violence pouring over from the civil war in neighbouring Syria,where Hezbollah forces fight alongside President Bashar Assads troops,angering the mainly Sunni rebels seeking to oust him.
Sunni militant groups have claimed responsibility for those attacks,calling it retaliation for Hezbollahs involvement in Syria.
Hezbollah said in a statement al-Laqis was killed as he returned home from work around midnight.
The brother martyr Hassan al-Laqis spent his youth and all his life in this honorable resistance since its inception up until the last moments of his life, the statement said.
A Lebanese security official and the official close to Hezbollah said assailants shot al-Laqis with a pistol equipped with a silencer at close range after he parked his car in the parking garage on the ground floor of the residential building where he lived,some two miles (three kilometers) southwest of Beirut. The Hezbollah statement accused Israel of being responsible for the killing. It said Israel tried to kill him several times,but had failed. The Israeli enemy is naturally directly to blame, the statement said.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor however denied any Israeli involvement. Israel has nothing to do with this incident, Palmor said.