France said to tell Lebanon: Israel won’t tolerate Iranian-backed missile plant
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France said to tell Lebanon: Israel won’t tolerate Iranian-backed missile plant

Al-Hayat newspaper reports Paris issues warning to Beirut, based on intel from Jerusalem on Tehran-backed, weapons-manufacturing facility

This frame grab from video released on July 22, 2017, and provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Hezbollah fighters firing a missile at positions of al-Qaeda-linked militants in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)
This frame grab from video released on July 22, 2017, and provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Hezbollah fighters firing a missile at positions of al-Qaeda-linked militants in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

France has warned Lebanon that Israel will not tolerate the existence of an Iranian-backed manufacturing facility for precision-guided missiles located inside the country, the London-based Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Saturday.

Diplomatic sources from within the Arab world told the newspaper details of the facility were conveyed to France from the US and originated with Israel.

The newspaper reported that France expects Lebanon to take action against the Iranian-backed production facility.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly warned Beirut about a new missile production facility by Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, saying that the actions of the terror group and Iran constituted a threat to both Israel and Lebanon.

In January, President Reuven Rivlin told French President Emmanuel Macron that Israel could be forced to strike Hezbollah’s rocket-building operations “in the heart of Beirut,” a development he warned would drag Lebanon into a punishing regional war that neither side wants. Rivlin stressed at the time that Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for all military activity in its territory and urged Macron to use France’s diplomatic clout to convince Beirut to contain the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

It is unclear if the Al-Hayat report is referring to the same facility.

Lebanese security forces guard the entrance of Al-Ahed stadium in Beirut’s southern suburbs during a tour organized by the Lebanese foreign minister for ambassadors on October 1, 2018 of alleged missile sites around the Lebanese capital in a bid to disprove Israeli accusations that the Hezbollah movement has secret missile facilities there. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

The last major conflict between Israel and Lebanon was the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Israel has moved forcefully in recent years to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weaponry from Iran via neighboring Syria. Israel has become more public about its airstrikes in Syria which, it says, have destroyed thousands of Hezbollah and Iranian targets in hundreds of missions since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011.

Israel maintains that Hezbollah, with Iranian assistance, is working to set up factories in Beirut to produce precision-guided missiles it will ultimately direct against the Jewish state.

Jerusalem has also vowed to prevent Iran from establishing a military foothold in Syria, where Tehran’s proxy militias — including Hezbollah — are helping the Damascus regime end the civil war, now in its eighth year.

On Sunday, an Israeli satellite imaging firm released images of a Syrian military base that was targeted in an airstrike — attributed to Israel — in the predawn hours of last Saturday morning.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrikes attributed to Israel that targeted a Syrian military base in Masyaf in the Hama province on April 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

According to a report by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Arabic, a number of Iranian “elements” and pro-Iranian militants were killed in the alleged attack, and 17 people were injured.

The area is known to house Iranian and Hezbollah forces.

In a September 2018 speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a map pinpointing the location of the Hezbollah missile sites near Beirut’s airport, and accused the terror group of “deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, and holds up a placard detailing alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Netanyahu later said that Hezbollah closed the facilities he had revealed to the United Nations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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