Khalid Bazzi

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Khalid Ahmad Bazzi
Nickname(s) al-Hajj Qasim
Born March 15, 1969
Bint Jbeil, Lebanon
Died July 29, 2006 (aged 37)
Bint Jbeil
Buried at Bint Jbeil
Allegiance Hizbullah
Service/branch The Islamic Resistance in Lebanon
Years of service 20 years
Rank Commander (Arabic: قائد ‎, qa’id)
Commands held Chief of Operations, Bint Jbeil sector
Battles/wars

2006 Lebanon War

South Lebanon conflict (1982–2000)

Khalid Ahmad Bazzi (Arabic: خالد أحمد بزي‎) was a commander in Hizbullah's military wing, the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon. He was born in the town of Bint Jbeil in South Lebanon. He joined the resistance in his teens and participated in many operations against the Israeli occupation. During the Second Lebanon War he was sector commander in the Bint Jbeil area, comprising the towns of Bint Jbeil and Aynata and the villages of Maroun ar-Ras and Aytaroun. He personally participated in both the battles of Maroun ar-Ras and Bint Jbeil. He was one of the most senior Hizbullah leader to die in the war.

Khalid Bazzi was thirteen years old in 1982, when his hometown was occupied by Israel for the third time in his lifetime. Bint Jbeil was occupied in Operation Cauldron 4 Extended in 1972 and Operation Litani in 1978. This time the Israelis would stay 18 years. The Shiite population of Southern Lebanon had suffered hard during the years of fighting between the Palestinians and Israelis. Many residents of South Lebanon felt an initial relief after the Palestinian guerrillas where pushed back from the area. This feeling soon turned sour when it became clear that the Israelis where there to stay. An armed resistance developed, this time among the Shiite population of South Lebanon that constituted the majority population in the area.

Bazzi thus grew up under the Israeli occupation. Some of his relatives had previously been active in the Palestinian Fatah movement. Bazzi and his friends soon became sympathetic or even active in the emerging Islamic Resistance.

In 1985 Israel withdrew from most of south Lebanon but continued to control a security zone, comprising about 10 per cent of the area of Lebanon. The IDF launched purges in the Shiite villages remaining under occupation, arresting people suspected of being involved in the resistance. Several of Bazzi’s friends were arrested and taken to the notorious al-Khiyyam prison camp. Bazzi himself fled his home one night and slipped out of the security zone. He went to Beirut and started studying at the university. He soon dropped out of school and became a full-time activist in the resistance.

During his more than 20 years of militant activity he participated in many operations, such as the famous Bra’shit operation in 1987. Fighters from the Islamic Resistance stormed and conquered an outpost belonging to the South Lebanon Army in the security zone. A number of its defenders were killed or taken prisoner and the Hizbullah flag was raised on top of it. A Sherman tank was blown up and a M113 Armored Personal Carrier was captured and driven triumphantly all the way to Beirut.[1]

Bazzi was involved in the planting of deadly road side bombs, such as in Houla, Markaba and al-Abbad in the 1990s. He took part in the attempted killing of Brig. Gen. Eli Amitai, the head of the Israel Defense Force liaison unit in southern Lebanon and thus the effective commander of the security zone.[2] December 14, 1996, Amitai was slightly injured when the IDF convoy he was travelling in was ambushed in the eastern sector of the security zone.[3] Less than a week later Amitai was again lightly injured when Hizbullah unleashed a mortar barrage on an SLA position near Bra'shit he was visiting together with Maj. Gen. Amiram Levine, head of the IDF's Northern Command.[4]

He also took part in the killings of several high-ranking South Lebanon Army (SLA) officers, whom Hizbullah considered traitors, such as Aql Hashim, the SLA Second-in Command, who was killed by a remote-controlled bomb in January 2000.[2][5] The pursuit and assassination of Hashim was documented step by step and the footage was broadcast on Hizbullah TV channel al-Manar. The operation and the way it was presented in media dealt a devastating blow to the morale in the SLA.[6]

Mounting resistance and a steady stream of casualties finally convinced the Israeli government in the spring of 2000 of withdrawing from the security zone. This decision precipitated a virtual collapse of the Israel controlled South Lebanon Army. This in turn hastened the Israeli retreat which at times resembled a flight were equipment was left behind. In May 26, 2000 Hizbullah General-Secretary Hassan Nasrallah held his famous victory speech in Bint Jbeil where he compared the power of Israel to that of a "cobweb".[7] Nasrallah's speech infuriated many Israeli officers. This anger explains to a large extent why Bint Jbeil was targeted in 2006.

After the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon Khalid Bazzi returned to Bint Jbeil and continued his involvement with military activities. He was made responsible for "capturing" operations. He took part in the failed Ghajar operation 2005. Bazzi organized the abduction of two Israeli soldiers that triggered the 2006 Lebanon War.

After the successful abduction of the two soldiers Bazzi returned to his post as Chief of Operations in the Bint Jbeil area, comprising the towns of Bint Jbeil and Aynata and the villages of Maroun ar-Ras and Aytaroun. He commanded a force of approximately 140 fighters, spread out in the area.

Bazzi participated in the battle of Maroun al-Ras. The Israeli army eventually occupied most of the village. The Hizbullah defenders eventually withdrew after causing heavy casualties to the Israelis, including two IDF officers and six other soldiers killed. Due to Bazzi's reluctance to use two-way radios, contact was lost with him several times during the battle and at one time it was feared that he had been killed.[2] He emerged however unscathed and continued to lead the defense from Bint Jbeil. According to Hizbullah only seven of the 17 defenders of Maroun ar-Ras were killed in that battle.[8]

July 23 the Israeli army launched Operation Webs of Steel 2 which was designed as a pincer movement, attacking Bint Jbeil simultaneously from the east and the west. The aim was to conquer the town and cleanse it from Hizbullah fighters and infrastructure. The 51st battalion of the elite Golani Brigade walked into a well-prepared ambush and sustained heavy casualties. The Hizbullah defenders managed to repulse the attack. The Israelis never managed to enter the town and the fighting was limited to the outskirts of the town.

After several days of fighting they were forced to withdraw.[9] Bint Jbeil was however largely destroyed by intensive bombardment from the Israeli air force and artillery.

On July 29 Bazzi was killed in an air strike on a house in the Old Town of Bint Jbeil. The house collapsed, killing him, as well as fellow Hizbullah commander Sayyid Abu Taam and a third fighter. Their bodies could not be retrieved until several days after the cease-fire.[2]

There are suggestions that Bazzi earlier had refused to obey orders to withdraw from the town saying that he would "only leave as a martyr".[10] Hizbullah commanders who spoke to Lebanese al-Akhbar a year after the war did not confirm this version of events. According to them the proper place for a commander was with the fighters on the battlefield. Bazzi and Abu Taam however were critizised for violating military regulations by being at the same place during a battle.[2]

Surprisingly Israel seemed to have been completely unaware of both Bazzi’s death and of the significant role he played in the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers. No Israeli newspaper seems to have mentioned his name before 2013. In July 2013 Haaretz reported that Hizbullah "for the first time" revealed the identity of Khalid Bazzi as the commander of the abduction unit and that he was subsequently killed in the war.[11] In fact already in 2007 a Hizbullah commander told Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar that Bazzi took part in the operation and that he died as commander in the battle of Bint Jbeil.[2][5] Furthermore Hussein Sulaiman, an Hizbullah fighter captured by Israel, who took part in the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers, told his captors that he was commissioned his tasks by "al-Hajj Qasim".[12]

Bazzi was succeeded as sector commander by Muhammad Qansu (Sajid ad-Duwayyir), a Special Force commander who himself would be killed 10 days later. The Israeli army made a second attempt to capture Bint Jbeil August 6–8, which was no more successful than the first.

Hizbullah is a very secretive organization and members in the military wing always remain anonymous. Apart from Bazzi’s friends, relatives and neighbours, few Lebanese would have heard of his name before the war of 2006. To his associates in the resistance movement he was known as al-Hajj Qasim, the nom de guerre or "organizational name" (Arabic: ‎إسم منظمي) that members of the Islamic Resistance use inside the movement. Only with his death did his identity become widely known in Lebanon.

Although not mentioned by name Bazzi's death was noted in the interview with Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah with New TV shortly after the war (August 27, 2006). Nasrallah noted that none of the first or second level of the party officials had "martyred" but that three third level leaders had died in the war, including "an operations officer in the Bint Jbeil axis", an obvious reference to Bazzi.[13]

Khalid Bazzi was buried in the Martyrs’ cemetery in Bint Jbeil. A monument was erected in the town celebrating him and five other "commanders and martyrs" from Bint Jbeil, who died in the 2006 war or in previous wars. He was survived by his wife and three children; Zaynab, Muhammad and Ali. His family had reportedly been forced to change homes 14 times in the past 18 years due to security considerations.[10]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blanford, Nicholas, Warriors of God - Inside Hezbollah's Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel, Random House, New York, 2011, pp. 85-86
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kamil Jabir (2007-07-29). "خالد بزي (قاسم) يكتب ملحمة بنت جبيل (Khalid Bazzi (Qasim) writes the Bint Jbeil epic)". al-Akhbar. Retrieved Jan 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ Naomi Segal (December 16, 1996). "Fighting Erupts in Lebanon After Rockets Hit Jewish State". JTA. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  4. ^ Naomi Segal (December 20, 1996). "Senior IDF Officer Wounded on Visit to Southern Lebanon". JTA. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  5. ^ a b Blanford, pp. 243-244
  6. ^ Harb, Zahera, Channels of Resistance in Lebanon - Liberation Propaganda, Hizbullah and the Media, I.B. Tauris, London-New York, 2011, pp.214-216
  7. ^ Noe, Nicholas, Voice of Hizbullah, the statements of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Verso, London and New York, 2007, pp. 232-43
  8. ^ US Embassy Beirut (2006-07-26). "Cable 06BEIRUT2474". Retrieved Aug 1, 2012. 
  9. ^ Bilal Y. Saab and Nicholas Blanford (August 2011). "THE NEXT WAR: How Another Conflict between Hizballah and Israel Could Look and How Both Sides are Preparing for It". The Saban Center at Brookings ANALYSIS PAPER Number 24. Retrieved Aug 1, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "خالد بزي.. أمثاله لا يموتون إلا شهداء (Khalid Bazzi, The likes of him only die as martyrs)". as-Safir. 5 Sep 2007. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  11. ^ Jack Khoury (2013-07-21). "Hezbollah releases video of preparations to kidnap Israeli soldiers in 2006". Haaretz. Retrieved August 13, 2013. 
  12. ^ "War in Lebanon: Israeli Interrogation of Hezbollah Terrorist". Retrieved August 13, 2013. 
  13. ^ Noe, Nicholas, Voice of Hezbollah, the statements of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Verso, London and New York, 2007, p. 398-99