Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday revealed a secret arms depot belonging to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah near Beirut’s International Airport, warning of another catastrophic explosion and calling on the Lebanese people to protest against the terror group and its Iranian sponsors.
“We all saw the terrible explosion at Beirut port last month,” he said in a pre-recorded statement broadcast to UN delegates, referring to August 4’s huge blast that devastated the Lebanese capital.
He pointed to the site of the blast on a map displayed next to his podium. “The explosion happened here. This is the Beirut port. Two hundred people died, thousands of people were injured, and a quarter of a million people were made homeless,” he said.
“Now, here is where the next explosion could take place. Right here. This is the Beirut neighborhood of Janah. It’s right next to the international airport. And here, Hezbollah is keeping a secret arms depot.”
The depot in the city’s Janah neighborhood, the prime minister said, is adjacent to a gas company.
“And it’s embedded in civilian housing here, [and] civilian housing here,” he said, pointing at the map.
He proceeded to display photographs of the entrance of the facility, which he said was a Hezbollah missile factory.
“I say to the people of Janah, you’ve got to act now. You’ve got to protest this. Because if this thing explodes, it’s another tragedy,” Netanyahu said.
“I say to the people of Lebanon, Israel means you no harm. But Iran does. Iran and Hezbollah have deliberately put you and your families in grave danger. And what you should make clear is that what they have done is unacceptable. You should tell them, ‘tear these depots down.’”
The international community, he said, “must insist that Hezbollah stop using Lebanon and Lebanese civilians as human shields.”
The Israel Defense Forces later released more information on two additional sites in Beirut allegedly used by the Hezbollah terror group to manufacture parts for precision-guided missiles.
One is an underground facility built beneath four seven-story apartment buildings in which 70 families live, east of Beirut’s international airport. A church is located nearby, as is a medical center, according to the military. The second is located under a complex of five apartment buildings in which some 50 families live. According to the IDF, the missile production facility is located approximately 90 meters from a mosque.
The August 4 blast was caused by some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, which were apparently inadequately stored in an old warehouse for years. Some blamed Hezbollah for the volatile materials staying at the port despite repeated warnings by officials, but the Shiite group denies any responsibility.
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 three facilities to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles near Beirut’s international airport.
During Tuesday’s speech (full text here), which he delivered from what appeared to be a television studio, Netanyahu attacked Iran for its ongoing regional aggression and its plans to acquire nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic is violating the restrictions imposed on it by the 2015 nuclear deal and thus will have produced enough enriched uranium for two nuclear bombs within a few months, he said.
“And Iran has been working on a new generation of centrifuges, it’s called the IR9, which will multiply Iran’s enrichment capability fifty-fold,” he said. “There is no question that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.”
The nuclear deal did not curb Iran’s aggression but rather “fed and funded it,” he went on.
Netanyahu thanked US President Donald Trump for leaving the deal and restoring crushing sanctions on Iran. He noted that the administration tried to get the UN Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran, though the move failed to win the support of the council’s 14 other members.
“While the Security Council is divided, we in the region are united,” the prime minister said. “Both Arabs and Israelis are together urging tough action on Iran. And when Arabs and Israelis agree, others should pay attention.”
Netanyahu also addressed the September 15 peace agreements he signed with the United Arab Emirates and with Bahrain at the White House.
“This was the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country in over a quarter of a century. And it was the first time peace agreements between Israel and two Arab countries were signed on the same day,” he gushed.
“These new agreements will bring our peoples the blessings of peace and the enormous benefits that come with more trade, more investment, more commerce, transportation, tourism, increased cooperation in so many other areas. I also have no doubt that more Arab and Muslim countries will be joining the circle of peace, soon, very soon.”
The peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain came as the result of a “clear break with the failed strategies of the past,” he argued. “For far too long, the Palestinians effectively wielded a veto on peace between Israel and the broader Arab world.”
For decades, he went on, any progress on the peace process “was held hostage to completely unrealistic Palestinian demands.” Such demands include an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the evacuation of thousands of settlers — “effectively committing ethnic cleansing,” he said.
“Of course, these demands, along with many others, are complete non-starters for any responsible Israeli government,” he said. “Yet for years, many in the international community have tried to appease these absurd Palestinian demands, and as a result, they have wasted time to try to advance an illusion that won’t happen, instead of working for a realistic solution that could happen.”
In contrast, the Trump administration’s approach to solving the conflict is “anchored in reality,” Netanyahu said, noting its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; its recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and its peace proposal.
“The critics argued that each of these steps by President Trump would kill the chances for peace. Well, they were wrong. Dead wrong,” the prime minister said. “Those steps advanced peace. Now two Arab states have decided to make peace with Israel, and more will follow.”
The “expanding circle of peace” will make an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians more likely, he posited.
“Palestinian leaders will increasingly realize that they no longer have a veto over peace and progress in our region, and hopefully, those leaders will ultimately decide to make peace with the Jewish state,” he said. “And when that happens, Israel will be ready.”
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.