As the sun receded beneath the Mediterranean horizon in the southern Beirut district of Bourj al-Barajneh, the blinding flashes from 23 tons of Israeli aviation ordnance swiftly took its place. The target was a bunker being used by Hizballah leadership including, Israeli intelligence believes, Hizballah’s very public leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
Fully nine hours after the strike, Nasrallah has yet to be heard from. Silence from a man who immediately phoned Hizballah’s al-Manar TV to confirm his survival after Israel launched a strike that destroyed his home and headquarters five days prior. Never one to shy from cameras or microphones, perhaps this vanity contributed to his apparent demise.
This time, Hizballah has only issued a statement through al-Manar. “The strike hit a building that was under construction for a mosque. It seems that the enemy wants to cover up its military and security failures with lies and claims of imaginary achievements.” But Nasrallah’s personal silence is not imaginary and grows louder with every passing hour.
And as has been witnessed with regularity throughout the war with Iraq, when battling Islamists, mosques are often used for far more than prayer under a perceived blanket of immunity from attack. That once-accurate immunity has been discarded by those under fire.
While Britain’s The Herald reports that Nasrallah is ‘trapped’ in his bunker, they rely solely on an IDF quote from an IDF intelligence officer who said, “Nasrallah took to his bunker as soon as we started bombing. He hasn’t seen the light of day since.” But the quote appears to be referencing the bombing campaign in general and not this particular strike.
After 23 tons of munitions, if Nasrallah was in the bunker, he will not be leaving it under his own power. Were Nasrallah not in the bunker, Hizballah’s al-Manar would not have read a written Hizballah statement. Nasrallah’s voice would have been heard phoning in once again, boasting of Israeli incompetence and the power of Hizballah.
The Hizballah statement claimed that no members of Hizballah leadership were killed in the attack. But judging by the silence, Imad Mugniyah may be searching for a new Lebanon figurehead to receive his directives, likely from his Tehran office.