Rockets and missiles: what we know about the alleged weapons crates that Hezbollah is hiding in Beirut airport

Rockets and missiles: what we know about the alleged weapons crates that Hezbollah is hiding in Beirut airport
Rockets and missiles: what we know about the alleged weapons crates that Hezbollah is hiding in Beirut airport

Does Beirut airport contain Hezbollah weapons caches? In an article published online on Sunday, The Telegraph claimed that the Hamas-allied Shiite movement was storing Iranian missiles and explosives at the airport, located south of Lebanon’s capital, in an area where it is predominant. While tension between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah has never been so high, senior Lebanese officials firmly denied this during a visit organized for the press and diplomats on Monday.

“Mysterious crates”

Airport staff and sources point to the existence of a “cache” in the airport where various types of Iranian-made weapons are stored: artillery rockets, ballistic and anti-tank missiles or even large quantities of short-range ballistic missiles. The Telegraph article further suggests that airport employees noticed the arrival of “mysterious crates” at Beirut airport at the start of the clashes between Israel and Hezbollah. Airport employees who spoke on condition of anonymity said they feared an explosion or bombing by the Israeli army.

The article also mentions the strong presence of senior members of the Lebanese movement in the airport. Particularly that of Wafiq Safa, considered one of the most influential leaders of Hezbollah. “I have the impression that if we don’t do what they say, our families will be in danger,” worries one of the whistleblowers to the British media. This same source then suggests that certain members of the airport, who appeared driving luxury cars and with new watches, were corrupt.

Beirut denies

Lebanese officials immediately denied the allegations. Diplomats representing Egypt, Germany and the European Union among others, as well as journalists, were even invited to visit the site, Lebanon’s only international airport.

In particular, they entered a warehouse where boxes of goods were stacked on pallets, in which goods from Iran and other destinations were placed. Visitors then entered a huge warehouse adjacent to the tarmac, where more goods were stored.

Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

“The airport meets international standards,” assured Transport Minister Ali Hamié, who led the visit. He added that the Telegraph article was part of a “psychological war” against Lebanon and constituted “damage to the reputation” of the airport. “Our presence is a message of support” to Lebanon and “a message to all parties to say that calm is necessary,” declared Egyptian Ambassador Alaa Moussa, even if according to him, inspecting the airport is not the responsibility of diplomats.

Iranian planes “subject to the same customs procedures”

Beirut airport director Fadi el-Hassan told AFP that all planes arriving at the airport “are subject to the same customs procedures”, including Iranian planes. He indicated that arrivals in Beirut were increasing and that “passengers arriving in Lebanon since the beginning of June have exceeded 300,000 – this is a very good figure.” “God willing, we expect a promising summer,” he said, with expatriates usually returning in large numbers to spend the summer in Lebanon.

In the arrivals hall, families waited for their loved ones, some carrying bouquets of flowers, while details of flights from including Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt and Qatar appeared on display screens. Rola Qassem, a housewife in her fifties who had just arrived from Ivory Coast to spend the summer in southern Lebanon with her family, said she did not believe the reports of weapons. stored at the airport. “These are lies to make people afraid of going to Lebanon, to stop tourism,” she told AFP.

The Israeli army reacts

Hezbollah did not comment on the information from the British daily. Israel has accused Hezbollah for several years of converting rockets into precision missiles, particularly at a site near Beirut international airport, which the Shiite movement denied in 2020.

The movement armed and financed by Iran opened the front against Israel on October 8, 2023 in support of its ally Palestinian Hamas in Gaza. The bellicose rhetoric and the intensification of cross-border firefights between Hezbollah and Israel in recent days have raised fears of an extension of the conflict.

In a statement, the Israeli army regretted Hezbollah’s “strategy of hiding weapons from civilian neighborhoods”, warning that if the Shiite movement came to “target Israeli civilians”, the Tsahal “would have no other choice”. choice but to react, potentially putting Lebanese civilians in danger.” Israel has bombed Beirut airport during its conflicts through Lebanon in the past, including the last war against Hezbollah in 2006.

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