Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday accused Iran of exploiting civilian companies and maritime channels to smuggle weapons manufacturing equipment to its Lebanese proxy group, Hezbollah.
In the quarterly meeting on the Middle East, Ambassador Danny Danon told the Security Council that Israeli intelligence has uncovered evidence showing Iran’s Quds Force has been using the port of Beirut to ship items to the terror group since last year.
“In the years 2018-2019, Israel found that dual-use items are smuggled into Lebanon to advance Hezbollah’s rocket and missile capabilities,” he said.
“Iran and the Quds Force have begun to advance the exploitation of the civilian maritime channels, and specifically the Port of Beirut,” Danon said. “The Port of Beirut has become the Port of Hezbollah.”
In a statement, the Israeli mission said “Syrian agents” purchased the dual use items from foreign companies under false pretenses, and handed it over to the terrorist group after picking up the shipments from the port.
Danon presented the Security Council with a map of the Hezbollah transfer routes that included major hubs at the Damascus airport, Beirut’s port and airport and the official border crossings between Syria and Lebanon, such as the Masnaa crossings.
He said the weapons transfers violated UN resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Hezbollah and Israel.
Danon did not detail what items were obtained by the terror group through these means or name the companies behind the shipments.
On Friday, several Hezbollah commanders told the Daily Beast that the Iran-backed group was deploying forces for a possible war with Israel, warning that the growing pressure from US sanctions on Tehran could trigger such a conflict sooner rather than later.
The officers said Hezbollah forces were setting up for war on both Lebanon’s and Syria’s border with Israel, and their fighters were better prepared to confront Israel than in 2006, after sending thousands to fight alongside the troops of President Bashar Assad in Syria.
In the years since the 2006 summer war, Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of violating resolution 1701, which calls for all armed groups besides the Lebanese military to remain above the country’s Litani River. Israel maintains that Hezbollah is in constant violation of this, keeping a significant percentage of its 100,000-strong arsenal of rockets and mortar shells in southern Lebanon, as well as conducting patrols and other military activities along the border.
In late 2018 and early 2019, Israel uncovered at least six cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon into Israel. According to the army, Hezbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities. The peacekeeping force UNIFIL confirmed these to be a violation of resolution 1701, but did not identify Hezbollah as the group responsible for their excavation.
In June, the head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, threatened overt and covert action against Hezbollah and Lebanon, in response to its efforts to build up terrorist infrastructure along the border.
Hezbollah, Baram said, was “building infrastructure in the villages right here across [the border] and trying to threaten us with attack forces.”
The IDF Northern Command chief said that in a future war against the terror group the country of Lebanon was likely to “pay a heavy price” for allowing Hezbollah to take root there.
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria on targets linked to Iran and Hezbollah.
Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, which Jerusalem has vowed to prevent.
Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that Hezbollah was hiding precision missile production facilities underneath Beirut. He revealed satellite photos purporting to show the secret facilities, located within close proximity of Beirut’s international airport.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu warned that Israeli fighter jets “can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran.”
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.