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Israel’s UN envoy: Iran using commercial flights to arm Hezbollah

Danny Danon says airlines such as Mahan Air aiding Tehran’s efforts to upgrade terror group’s missile arsenal

Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon addresses the Security Council on October 19, 2016.  (UN Photo)
Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon addresses the Security Council on October 19, 2016. (UN Photo)

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon sent a letter to UN Security Council members on Tuesday warning that Iran was using commercial flights to Lebanon and Syria to send weapons to its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.

Citing information gleaned from Israeli intelligence agencies, Danon said Iran smuggles arms to Hezbollah “using airlines such as ‘Mahan Air,’ to supply Hezbollah with the capacity to enhance its missile arsenal. The arms and related materials are packed in suitcases by the Quds Force in Iran and transferred directly to Hezbollah operatives.”

The weapons were either transferred directly to Hezbollah by “commercial flights from Beirut” or sent on planes to Damascus and then transferred overland to the Lebanese terror group.

Iran is Hezbollah’s chief patron, having helped set up the group in the early 1980s. Since then, Iran has supplied Hezbollah with a range of weapons and helped fund its social programs in southern Lebanon, and has used the group to carry out terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets.

Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah flags in front of portraits of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on August 13, 2016, during a commemoration marking the tenth anniversary of the end of the war between Hezbollah and Israel. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)
Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah flags in front of portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on August 13, 2016, during a commemoration marking the tenth anniversary of the end of the war between Hezbollah and Israel. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)

At Iran’s behest, Hezbollah has become deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war, fighting in a Shiite alliance alongside Iranian forces, the Assad regime and Iraqi militias against primarily Sunni rebels.

Israel has reportedly carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria since the civil war began in a bid to stop the smuggling of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, but has otherwise refrained from becoming involved in the deadly conflict that has engulfed the country.

A plane from the Iranian private airline, Mahan Air lands the international airport in Sanaa, Yemen, March 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
A plane from the Iranian private airline Mahan Air lands at the international airport in Sanaa, Yemen, March 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

In September, aviation giants Airbus and Boeing received permission from the Obama administration to sell aircraft to Iran, part of deals potentially worth some $50 billion following the removal of sanctions against Iran as part of last year’s nuclear accord.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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