Hezbollah deputy chief dismisses Netanyahu’s ‘failed media show’ at UN
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Hezbollah deputy chief dismisses Netanyahu’s ‘failed media show’ at UN

Naim Qassem says remarks by PM, who accused Lebanese terror group of maintaining secret rocket sites in Beirut, are not a threat

File: Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem speaks in the Ghobeiry neighborhood of southern Beirut on May 13, 2016. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
File: Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem speaks in the Ghobeiry neighborhood of southern Beirut on May 13, 2016. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

The deputy leader of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah hit back Wednesday at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allegation of secret rocket sites near the Beirut airport, slamming his speech at the UN General Assembly last week as a “failed show.”

“Netanyahu’s failed media show doesn’t interest us, nor do his threats,” Naim Qassem said at a conference in Beirut, according to Ynet.

“We are fully prepared to deal with an Israeli offensive if there is one, although we don’t expect one soon,” he added. “That doesn’t affect our difficult daily job improving our readiness and our weapons.”

During his speech, Netanyahu had displayed an aerial shot of the area with the three alleged rocket sites.

“Israel knows; Israel also knows what you’re doing. Israel knows where you’re doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it,” he said.

Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of 100,000 to 150,000 rockets and missiles, though the vast majority are thought to lack precision technology.

Israel has vowed to keep Hezbollah from gaining more advanced weapons, and to that end has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria to stop suspected missile transfers to the group as well as other Iran-backed organizations.

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)

The Israeli army said the missile facilities on Netanyahu’s map were “another example of Iranian entrenchment in the region and the negative influence of Iran.”

Israel regularly accuses Lebanon of shielding Hezbollah and allowing it to stay armed, despite a 2006 UN resolution demanding it disarm.

Hezbollah is a political force in Lebanon and is part of the ruling government.

Lebanon has denied that the sites contain missile silos and accused Israel of using the claim as a pretext for war.

On Tuesday, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun called the Israeli allegations “unfounded” and said his country would confront any Israeli aggression.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing Hezbollah precision missile sites hidden in Beirut. (GPO)

“Netanyahu’s claims about military bases in the vicinity of the airport are unfounded and conceal a new Israeli threat to Lebanese sovereignty,” he tweeted.

On Monday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said his government would not allow rocket facilities near the airport and that Hezbollah is “wiser” than to place them there. He said Netanyahu’s claims were based on “inaccurate” estimates without any “compelling evidence.”

Lebanese officials also took ambassadors and reporters on a tour of some of the alleged sites on Monday, seeking to dispel the accusations.

Netanyahu derided the tour as “propaganda” and pointed to the three-day gap between his accusation and the Lebanese response.

The IDF Spokesman released a video saying three days was plenty of time to clear out a missile factory and invite foreign diplomats to tour the area.

AP contributed to this report.

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