A senior US diplomat has shown Lebanese government officials photographs and maps of sites used by the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group to store precision missiles, according to a report Sunday.
The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, owned by a Saudi prince, said that David Satterfield, US acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, told the Beirut officials that the US government could neither overlook the findings nor hold Israel back from acting to deal with them, and that it was up to the Lebanese government to resolve the situation.
The report also said that the passing on of that information explained the uptick in threats by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in comments he made late Friday night.
Appearing on a large screen to a crowd of supporters in the southern Beirut Dahiye district, Nasrallah acknowledged that his group had precision weapons but said it did not yet produce them.
“So far in Lebanon there are no factories for precision missiles,” he said.
But he warned that if the US continued to focus on the organization’s precision missiles, he would establish factories to produce them.
Many shipments of advanced missiles are said to have been bombed by Israel on the way from Iran to Lebanon, mostly through Syria.
In April, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly conveyed to Lebanon a message from Israel warning Beirut of action by Iran and Hezbollah to covertly construct a new missile production facility in the country.
Pompeo visited Beirut after Israel, using the trip to highlight his concerns about Hezbollah, which is targeted by US sanctions as a terror group, but holds three cabinet posts in Lebanon.
In a September 2018 speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a map pinpointing the location of the Hezbollah missile sites near Beirut’s airport, and accused the terror group of “deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields.”
Netanyahu later said that Hezbollah closed the facilities he had revealed to the United Nations.
Satterfield is in the region to mediate between Lebanon and Israel on the issue of demarcating the countries’ land and maritime borders.
The aim is to hold formal negotiations under United Nations auspices and US supervision.
The outcome of the talks will have important implications for the two countries’ offshore oil and gas exploration.
In late May, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said the two countries were close to establishing a framework for negotiations. Israel said it, too, is willing to engage in the talks. Israel and Lebanon each claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of sea as within their own exclusive economic zones.
Agencies contributed to this report.