JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel has quietly backed off from its plan to assassinate Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah because of the international condemnation that his killing would create, the Israeli daily Maariv reported Friday.
During the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah that ended Aug. 14, Israel had targeted the Hezbollah leader for assassination, security officials said, according to Maariv. In a successful effort to evade assassination, Nasrallah went underground, though he repeatedly recorded videos from his hiding place that were broadcast on Lebanese television.
When the war ended, the army recommended that the efforts to kill Nasrallah be called off because his assassination would lead to mass international criticism of Israel and would ignite an even more violent war, Maariv reported. However, the government declined to call off the hunt, the newspaper reported.
Nasrallah emerged from hiding on Sept. 22 to address a massive rally in Lebanon celebrating Hezbollah’s fight against Israel. Israel army officials determined they could assassinate him with an airstrike during the rally, but dozens of bystanders would also be killed, Maariv reported.
The government decided an airstrike was not worth the risk, and accepted the army’s recommendation that it should abandon efforts to kill Nasrallah for the time being, the newspaper reported. However, the government did not make a formal decision regarding Nasrallah.
Israeli government spokesman Miri Eisin declined to confirm whether Nasrallah had been a target or if he no longer was being pursued.
“We’ve always said that any terrorist should feel that his activities put him under our eye,” she said.