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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Attack in Beirut Through the Lens of Hezbollah TV

Raw footage of the deadly bombing in Beirut on Tuesday, acquired by The Associated Press from Al Manar, a satellite television channel operated by Hezbollah.

As our colleagues Hwaida Saad and Anne Barnard report from Beirut, the deadly bombings at the gate of the Iranian Embassy in the Lebanese capital on Tuesday were immediately interpreted there as a form of retaliation for Iran’s intervention in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

That was abundantly clear in the way the attacks were reported by Al Manar, a satellite news channel operated by Hezbollah, the militant and political organization supported by Iran that represents Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim community. Since Hezbollah’s fighters began crossing the border into Syria, they have helped to tip the balance of power back in favor of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, and away from the mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents supported by their sectarian allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

One Manar report â€" which included extremely graphic images of those wounded in the attack on the diplomatic compound in south Beirut â€" featured a statement from Ali Ammar, who represents Hezbollah in the Lebanese Parliament, bemoaning the fact that, he said, this violence was “supported by some Arabs.”

An Arabic-language video report on the bombings in Beirut on Tuesday broadcast by Al Manar.

Another member of Hezbollah’s political wing, the agriculture minister Hussein Hajj Hassan, also appeared in the Manar report, calling the bombings “an addition to the record of terrorist, criminal acts by these killers.”

More graphic footage of the attack’s victims from Al Manar â€" meaning “The Beacon” in Arabic â€" was also broadcast by Al Alam, the Iranian government’s Arabic-language satellite news channel.

Graphic footage of the attack in Beirut broadcast by Al Alam, an Iranian satellite news channel.

Hezbollah, which was nurtured by Iran as a militant force to combat Israel during its occupation of southern Lebanon, has rejected criticism of its intervention in Syria by claiming that the Assad government is an important ally in the “resistance” to the Jewish state. In the introduction to the Manar report, a journalist asserted that the bombings at the Iranian compound, in a part of Beirut largely under the control of Hezbollah, “serve the interests of the enemies and Zionists.”

Another report on the attack, from Iran’s English-language satellite news channel Press TV, began with a direct defense of Hezbollah’s military intervention in the Syrian civil war. “Hezbollah believes,” a reporter on the scene told Press TV viewers, “and I think that’s a very acceptable argument, that its acts, and its involvement in Syria, have actually prevented such explosions from increasing … in number.”

A video on the bombings Tuesday in Beirut in a report from Press TV, the Iranian government’s English-language news channel.

It was only Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, the Press TV reporter suggested, that had prevented Sunni jihadists bent on eliminating members of all other Islamic sects from staging more attacks on the Shiite community in Lebanon.

The Lebanese-Australian journalist Rania Abouzeid, who lives and works in Beirut, described some of the other local television coverage of the attacks in a post for The New Yorker’s News Desk blog. “Apart from vaguely blaming Israel, which is the usual move after an unsolved attack,” she wrote, “some local TV pundits and politicians have pointed out that the bombings may be an attempt not only to punish Hezbollah for fighting in Syria, but also to try to split it from its base.” She explained:

The idea is that Hezbollah’s supporters will blame the group for the car bombs in their neighborhoods, and put pressure on it to withdraw from the fight across the border.

That’s highly unlikely for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the pain threshold for Hezbollah’s followers is high. The party â€" which has formidable military, political and social services branches â€" has done much to elevate the status, power and prospects of a once-downtrodden, destitute Shiite community. Hezbollah offers schools, hospitals, employment programs, agricultural initiatives and other assistance to its supporters. After the monthlong war with Israel in 2006, which left the mainly Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut a mountain of rubble and ruins, Hezbollah rebuilt the area. It wasn’t unusual at the time to hear mothers who had lost their children in Israeli bombings to stoically and fervently proclaim that they accepted their painful sacrifice, and would pay it again with their remaining children.