The Israel Defense Forces on Friday countered a Hezbollah claim that a Beirut factory identified by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the week as a missile production site was a civilian workshop, identifying the machinery in the facility as that which is needed for the production of precision-guided munitions.
Shortly after the premier on Tuesday revealed the location of the alleged Hezbollah site in the al-Janah neighborhood of the Lebanese capital, the Iran-backed terror group led a tour of journalists to the factory, claiming it was a civilian-run affair.
No missiles or other weapons were seen by reporters who visited the workshop, though they were not allowed to freely explore the facility.
The military on Friday — using footage filmed by the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen television station — identified the equipment inside the factory and explained how each piece could be used in the manufacture of missiles.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to take action to prevent Hezbollah from completing this so-called precision project, an effort to convert its massive arsenal of simple rockets into highly accurate missiles, which present a far greater challenge to Israel’s air defenses and would potentially be a game-changer in a future conflict with the Shiite militia.
According to the IDF, a folding machine seen in the footage is used to work steel before it can be used to make engine casings, warheads and navigation parts; the various cutting machines are used to make stabilizing fins, engine casings and warheads; and two rolling machines are used to make engine parts, warheads and navigation parts.
The IDF also named the supposedly civilian manager of the site as a Hezbollah member, Muhammad Kamil Fuad Rimal, 32.
According to the military, Rimal indeed served as the manager of the factory on behalf of the terror group. “He was active in the unit manufacturing precision-guided missiles in cooperation with Iranian forces. As part of his role, he visited Iran a number of times, along with other operatives,” the IDF said.
In addition to the al-Janah location identified by Netanyahu, the military also revealed the location of two other alleged Hezbollah missile sites on Tuesday night — both hidden under residential areas — one in Beirut’s Chouaifet neighborhood and the other in its Laylaki neighborhood.
On Friday, the IDF indicated that the terror group had attempted to move equipment from the Chouaifet site to another location in the Lebanese capital after its nature had been made public on Tuesday night.
What else is Hezbollah trying to hide in Beirut?
Shortly after we exposed a Hezbollah Precision Guided Missile manufacturing site in the Chouaifet neighborhood, we identified suspicious traffic leaving the location to another Hezbollah facility in Borj el-Brajneh: pic.twitter.com/GqW426904X
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 2, 2020
The military released what appeared to be drone footage of the location from the next day, showing a truck pull up to the area, leave several hours later and then pull into a building that the IDF said also belonged to Hezbollah in the al-Baranja neighborhood, just north of Beirut’s international airport.
The IDF identified the new location as a subterranean site under a five-story apartment building. As with the other sites, the military provided the GPS coordinates for the location: 33.8386939N, 35.5105477E.
The exposure of the alleged missile facilities appeared to be an effort by Israel to encourage the United States to issue harsher sanctions against Lebanon and to persuade France — which has emerged as a key player in the reconstruction of Beirut following August’s devastating explosion at the Beirut port — to take a harsher stance against Hezbollah.
The revelations also appeared to be a bid by the military and Netanyahu to drive a wedge between the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group and the Lebanese population, with officials stressing the danger the arms present to Beirut’s civilian population and citing both the port explosion — which has not been directly tied to the Shiite terror group — and a blast last Tuesday in the town of Ain Qana in southern Lebanon, which occurred at a Hezbollah facility widely reported to be an arms depot.
Tuesday’s speech was not the first time Netanyahu used the stage at the UN General Assembly to reveal hitherto classified information about secret warehouses and weapons depots. In 2018 — the last time he addressed the world body in person — the prime minister revealed the existence of what he said were three facilities to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles near Beirut’s international airport.
Hezbollah reportedly abandoned those sites following the speech.