Report: Israel warns will bomb Beirut airport if it’s used for Iran weapon shipments

Asharq Al-Awsat, citing Israeli political sources, says Jerusalem investigating report by Saudi TV claiming Tehran transferring weapons directly to Lebanon on civilian flights

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Planes are grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, March 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
Planes are grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, March 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Israel has warned Lebanon that it could bomb Beirut’s international airport, according to one Saturday report, after an earlier report claimed Iran had recently transferred weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group via civilian flights.

Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, cited unidentified Israeli political sources as saying Israel was investigating claims by the Saudi-funded al-Arabiya network that Iran recently smuggled weapons through Beirut International Airport.

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, Israel has warned the Lebanese government that it could strike the airport if it is indeed used for smuggling attempts.

The Israeli Air Force has admitted to conducting strikes in Syrian territory, targeting Iranian shipments of weapons meant for the Lebanese terror group to use against Israel. The IAF has largely abstained from conducting raids inside Lebanon itself, though it has indicated that it was prepared to do so.

Citing unnamed sources, al-Arabiya said Thursday that Tehran had used the airline Meraj, which recently started flying a direct route between the two nations’ capitals, to transfer weapons to Hezbollah.

Asharq Al-Awsat said the Israeli political sources were aware of the al-Arabiya report but did not actually confirm its authenticity.

Israel has in the past accused Iran of using direct flights to Lebanon to transfer equipment and arms to Hezbollah, but officials note the relative difficulty in doing so as the terror group does not control the airport. Therefore Iran prefers to first fly such weaponry into Syria and truck it over the border.

The Israeli military has also accused Hezbollah of hiding underground precision missile production facilities close to Beirut’s international airport.

Illustrative: A Meraj Airlines jet at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in 2019 (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

As a rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country, over the last decade.

The IDF says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

A fire is seen after an alleged airstrike near the Syrian city of Masyaf, on August 25, 2022. (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law, file)

In June, alleged Israeli airstrikes put Damascus’s airport out of service for nearly two weeks. A pair of sorties targeting the Aleppo airport in early September also forced that facility to shut down.

Those strikes came following alleged repeated attempts by Iran to transfer weapons to Hezbollah via the two airports. Another airbase near Homs was targeted last month.

Israeli strikes have continued in Syrian airspace, which is largely controlled by Russia, even as Jerusalem’s ties with Moscow have deteriorated in recent months since Russia invaded Ukraine. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it has increasingly supported Ukraine while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.

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