A massive explosion near the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiyeh in Beirut leads the front pages of all major Arab dailies on Friday, each interpreting the event slightly differently.
“Terror strikes again at a Hezbollah stronghold,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, commenting that the explosion comes as somewhat of an expected response to the assassination of ex-minister Mohammad Chatah earlier this week. It also occurred, the daily notes, “amid growing domestic political divide” as a new government is being formed.
The Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, leaving the word “terror” out of its headline to describe the attack on its avowed Shiite adversary Hezbollah, chooses to cite a Hezbollah threat to “destroy Lebanon” in reaction to the attack, which, it notes, is the fourth to hit the Hezbollah-dominated security quarter within six months.
The daily notes that the attack follows the assassination of Chatah and the arrest by the army of Majed Al-Majed, the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
American-Lebanese scholar Fouad Ajami comments in an op-ed published Friday in A-Sharq Al-Awsat on the new trend of assassinations in Lebanon targeting outspoken technocrats like Chatah. He does not hide the clear sectarian character of these killings.
“This is a political assassination, No. 17 over the past decade… where the targets are primarily Sunni or Christian politicians, writers or journalists who are brave enough to anger the masters in the Damascus regime or the leaders of Hezbollah,” writes Ajami.
Al-Hayat columnist Walid Shqeir writes that events in Lebanon remind us that we are facing “one scene, spreading from Bahrain and Yemen to Iraq and Syria, and reaching Lebanon.”
Lebanon, he claims, is affected by international events such as the preparations for the Geneva 2 conference on Syria or the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“In these states, the power of the state has been weakened in one way or another, so it is unable to regulate the political balance between the sectarian groups within society. This allows for sectarian whims to reign over collective interests.”
“The Saudi ploy,” reads the headline of Lebanese pro-Hezbollah daily Al-Akhbar, which displays an image of a man standing next to the inferno in Beirut following the car bomb explosion.
Quoting former prime minister Sa’ad Hariri as saying that the victims of the Beirut attack have Hezbollah’s involvement in Lebanon to blame, the daily wages an attack on all supporters of Hariri’s March 14 Coalition.
“One would expect statements of this nature coming from leaders of the armed gangs in Syria, or leaders of the Syrian opposition justifying the crimes of the terrorists and saying that the bombings happened in response to Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria. These groups want to place political and popular pressure on Hezbollah and its supporters. But for the March 14 group to take this mission upon itself, do they know what they’re doing?” wonders journalist Ibrahim Al-Amin in Al-Akhbar.
The editorial Friday in Hariri’s party paper, Al-Mustaqbal, reflects the sense in Lebanon’s opposition that Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is the source of the evils plaguing the country.
“Again we must say that blind terrorism — and all terrorism is blind — has found its way into Lebanon, victimizing the people of the Dahiyeh. At the same time, they are victims of the wrong decision taken by Hezbollah, at the wrong place and at the wrong time, to get involved in the Syrian [carnage],” reads the editorial.