[A satellite photo shows a slain Syrian soldier (L), the late Mohammed Muntish in his car (C), and a Syrian army vehicle (R). (Photo: Al-Akhbar)
Less than 24 hours after three Al-Manar reporters were gunned down in the Syrian town of Maaloula, March 14 and the Syrian opposition set out to deny that armed Syrian opposition groups were responsible for the crime. Instead they pointed their fingers at the Syrian army, accusing them of being behind their murder.
March 14 and the Syrian opposition’s propaganda machine went even further by concocting the scenario that there were clashes between the Syrian army and Hezbollah. The Resistance struck back by revealing the investigation of what happened, which is usually saved for its own internal reports.
Hezbollah’s leadership investigates everything done by its fighters and has a detailed report on every mission it has carried out. When incidents happen that lead to casualties, investigations are expanded in order to provide comprehensive details to the families of the martyrs when they ask about what happened.
After journalists Hamza al-Hajj Hassan, Mohammed Muntish, and Halim Alou were killed, Hezbollah began its investigations. Al-Akhbar found out that all the details of Hezbollah’s investigation confirm the responsibility of the armed Syrian opposition for the crime and for the death of four Syrian army soldiers.
Information from the investigation reveals the following story that we present with some modification.
After taking control of the town of al-Sarkha, military units advanced towards the town of Maaloula from two directions. First they advanced from the north, taking control of the surrounding hills, the Safir Hotel, and the western part of the town. Then they advanced east, liberating the rest of Maaloula. Homes were raided and some weapons that the gunmen had left behind were found. After all the town’s buildings were searched, Maaloula was declared liberated.
Hezbollah’s leadership investigates everything done by its fighters and has a detailed report on every mission it has carried out. Once Hezbollah and the Syrian army declared that the town was under their control, a Syrian TV crew along with Al-Manar TV reporter Jaafar Mhanna arrived. At 2:10 pm they began broadcasting live in front of the Safir Hotel. In the meantime, Al-Manar’s team arrived with a number of people at around 3:10 pm. Muntish, a military journalist who knew all the details of the area, led them. Al-Manar coordinated with Muntish to begin live broadcasting from the square close to St. Takla monastery.
Al-Manar’s TV crew was riding in a convoy of three cars. The first car was being driven by Muntish, the second car carried the equipment for live broadcasting, and the third car belonged to reporter Hamza al-Hajj Hassan. When the envoy arrived at the square near the monastery, the atmosphere appeared normal, with Syrian soldiers patrolling the area. When they turned left towards the monastery at 3:30 pm, their convoy came under heavy fire from three gunmen that were seen stationed at the Safir Hotel overlooking the square.
Due to the heavy shooting, everyone inside their cars was injured and Muntish and Alou were killed on the spot. Hamza attempted to drive away but was hit by a bullet and killed. The shooting also led to the deaths of four Syrian soldiers who were in the area. Afterwards, the situation on the ground was assessed and the place of the gunmen was determined. Hezbollah fighters repelled their attack, and sent a military vehicle to transfer those killed and injured out of the area. Calm returned after about an hour.
It was discovered later on that the three gunmen were hiding in the caves adjacent St. Takla monastery. The investigators believe that it would be difficult to pursue the rest of the fighters who fled the town. When Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian army arrived to the same hill that lies right above the monastery, the three gunmen sensed danger and headed down to the nearby houses where they began shooting at Al-Manar’s convoy. No one knew that Al-Manar’s television crew was coming from Beirut since broadcasting from Maaloula had been a last minute decision.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.