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Hezbollah claims rocket attack retribution for ‘martyred’ Australians

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30 December 2023, The Age, by Perry Duffin and Rachel Clun

Hezbollah has claimed a missile attack on an Israeli village was retribution for an airstrike that killed Australian brothers – Ali and Ibrahim Bazzi – and Ibrahim’s wife Shorouq Hammoud, among others.

The Lebanese militant group and major political party on Friday claimed Ali Bazzi as one of their “mujahid” fighters, while describing his brother and sister-in-law as “wronged” or “oppressed” martyrs.

The federal government is investigating the elder Bazzi’s links to Hezbollah, but federal minister Bill Shorten says they do not yet have all the facts.

Brothers Ibrahim, 27, and Ali Bazzi, 30, were killed in an airstrike in the centre of the city of Bint Jbeil on Tuesday, local media reported. Ibrahim’s wife, Hammoud, also died in the strike.

Hammoud had recently been granted an Australian visa and the couple planned to travel to Sydney.

A Hezbollah-linked channel on Friday claimed they had launched missile attacks into an Israeli border town Kiryat Shmona, following the strike that killed the Australians.

“At 16:30, targeting the Kiryat Shmona settlement (occupied Khalsa town) with thirty Katyusha rockets in response to the repeated crimes of the Israeli enemy and its targeting of civilian homes in Bint Jbeil,” a translated announcement read.

Hezbollah, which was established in 1982, has launched rocket strikes into Israel and skirmished with Israeli forces almost every day since the war began on October 7. It was declared a terrorist organisation by Australia in 2021.

Israeli online newspaper The Times of Israel reported the rocket attack on Kiryat Shmona on December 28, and shared images showing a hole blown in a wall, and a crater in a street.

There were no reports of injuries, the publication said, and said the attack was carried out “presumably by Hezbollah or an allied Palestinian terror group”.

A Hezbollah-linked Telegram channel, on Friday, posted a map of Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, claiming they had attacked with rockets after Australian Hezbollah fighter Ali Bazzi was killed in an airstrike.

Other Hezbollah-linked Telegram channels, on Friday, released photographs and heavily produced videos of the trio, confirming the elder Bazzi brother was a fighter linked to the militant group.

“From the funeral of the martyred fighter on the path to Jerusalem, Ali Ahmad Saeed Bazzi … and the oppressed martyrs, Ibrahim Ahmad Saeed Bazzi and his wife Shorouk Saleh Hammoud, in the city of Bint Jbeil,” a translation of one video caption reads.

The footage showed a military funeral, in which men in military fatigues carry three coffins with the trio’s photographs on each casket.

The coffins are draped in Hezbollah’s yellow and green flag, which bears the Arabic script for “Hizb Allah”, or “Party of God”, and an assault rifle. A massive crowd chants and surges through a town centre behind the funeral procession.

The wording of the messages suggest Ibrahim Bazzi, known to friends as Bob, and his wife Hammoud, were not connected to Hezbollah – confirming what their friends and families had told The Sydney Morning Herald following their deaths.

“I told Bob ‘I want you to be careful in Lebanon, it’s not safe there’ … but we never thought his house would be bombed, he had nothing to do with this conflict,” his friend Ali Saab said.

Asked on Friday morning about the reported links of one of the brothers to the Hezbollah, NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said the government was still working to get all the facts.

“We’re investigating that question, trying to get to the bottom of it, assemble our facts,” he said on Nine’s Today show.

“The reality is Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. They are currently launching attacks into Israel. It’s against the law for Australians to travel overseas to join proscribed terrorist organisations, but I must say we don’t have all the facts yet.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australians should not travel to Lebanon, and warned commercial flights out may not be available as the conflict continues.

“The Australian Government continues to advise do not travel to Lebanon due to the volatile security situation and the risk of the security situation deteriorating further,” a department spokesperson said in a statement.

“Australians in Lebanon who wish to leave should leave now while commercial flights remain available. The Australian Government may have limited ability to assist you to leave.”

While the numbers are still small, the amount of Australians registering for consular updates has doubled since early October to about 800.

Thousands of Australian citizens are in Lebanon, many of whom live there permanently. Ray Najar, who is president of the Australian Lebanese Association but was speaking in a personal capacity, said those who can should leave Lebanon now before it becomes too difficult.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong will visit Israel and other Middle Eastern countries next month in a bid to help secure an end to hostilities and prevent them from spreading further.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said Australia should urge Lebanon to enforce the 2006 UN resolution which called for the cessation of hostilities in southern Lebanon and northern Israel by removing the threat of Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah’s actions threaten the safety of both Israeli and Lebanese citizens, who deserve strong global support to remove this terrorist threat, including from Australia,”

But Najar said Lebanon could not remove Hezbollah because the group was too powerful in the country’s south, and any military presence there would cause another civil war. He said Australia should help the Lebanese government and military better defend its country by providing training and equipment.

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Article source: The Age/ Perry Duffin and Rachel Clun 30.12.2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000