Elie Hobeika is best known as the intelligence chief of the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia group responsible for the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camp massacres in 1982.
Hobeika was directly responsible for carrying out the massacres (and other gruesome acts over the years). Before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Hobeika was assigned as a liasion officer with the IDF.
Following the war, he turned his back on Israel and joined the pro-Syrian camp in Lebanon, incurring the wrath of the right-wing Christian rank and file in the mid-1980s. He became a crucial ally of Syrian subjugation of Lebanon, and had a long career until he was killed in a massive bomb attack at his house in a Beirut suburb in January 2002.
Hobeika had been under investigation in Lebanon for several years before his sudden death. An investigation into the 1984 assassination attempt against Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss was expected to implicate Hobeika.
Other crimes were reportedly linked to Hobeika including the 1978 assassination of Zghorta MP Tony Franjieh and a 1985 car bomb attack that severely injured Sidon MP Mustafa Saad and killed his daughter, Natasha. Hobeika has also been accused of financial improprieties during his term as the “Electrical Minister and in Charge of Hydraulic Resources” in Lebanon.
Many in the Arab/Islamic world immediately blamed Hobeika’s death on Israel, with the motive assumed to be related to Ariel Sharon’s role as the Israeli defense leader at the time of the Sabra and Chatilla incident. Hobeika died a day after saying he was ready to testify in a “crimes against humanity” case brought by Palestinians in Belgium against Sharon, who denies sanctioning the massacres when he was defense minister.
Could the assassination be a cover-up on behalf of Sharon?But there is a much more plausible story. Hobeika reportedly attempted to work with the American Central Intelligence Agency to help locate Osama bin Laden’s ally Imad Mughniyah – listed on the US’s most-wanted terrorist list. But the Syrians, who occupy Lebanon and impose their will on the Beirut government, discovered Hobeika’s involvement with the CIA and arranged his death in a part of Beirut heavily patrolled by Lebanese security forces.
Israel had no compelling motive to kill Hobeika. There was no reason to believe that he would reveal credible new information about Israeli involvement in the massacre or have anything damaging to say about Sharon’s role.