On December 12, a top Lebanese Army commander, Brigadier General Francois Hajj, was killed in a Terrorist bombing in the suburb of Baabda southeast of Beirut. Hajj, 54, who was close to army commander Michel Sleiman and tipped to be his successor, was killed along with his bodyguard in a rush-hour blast. This was the first assassination of a high ranking officer of the Lebanese Armed Forces in decades. The first set of questions is: Why was he murdered, who may have perpetrated this terror attack and what could be the consequences of this dramatic development?
1) General Francois Hajj was born in the Christian town of Rmeish in southern Lebanon. His home village had a history of resistance against Terror forces since the late 1960s. Many of its inhabitants enrolled in the Lebanese Army over the past decades. A number of them were involved in opposition to the Syrian occupation and Hezbollah. Hajj joined the Lebanese army Academy in 1972 and graduated in 1975. He also commanded the Special Forces brigades (Maghawir) before he was promoted to LAF operation chief. According to many sources in Lebanon, he was selected to become the next commander of the Lebanese Army. Hence, the assassination aimed at preventing Francois Hajj from being appointed by the next President, yet to be elected, as the top military man in Lebanon. General Michel Soleiman, who has been nominated by the majority coalition in Parliament for the Presidency was grooming Hajj to become his successor. In addition the slain commander had in past months and years refused to accept Hezbollah’s exclusive areas of control in south Lebanon and in the Bekaa valley. Moreover he was credited for coordinating the Lebanese Army offensive against the Fatah Islam Terror group in Nahr al Bared camp in north Lebanon over the summer. The strike can be understood as a message to the Lebanese Army not to attempt to confront terror groups in the future, including Hezbollah.