Israel trying to 'justify another aggression' on Lebanon: Foreign minister

#Diplomacy

Lebanon's Gebran Bassil says Netanyahu's claim of missile sites near Beirut airport is false

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil at tour for diplomats and journalists near the airport in Beirut, 1 October (Reuters)
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Tuesday 2 October 2018 8:22 UTC
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Lebanon's foreign minister said on Monday Israel was trying to "justify another aggression" by falsely alleging there are missile sites near Beirut airport belonging to Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the United Nations last week, identified three locations near the airport where he claimed Hezbollah was converting "inaccurate projectiles" into precision-guided missiles. He did not provide any evidence to back that allegation.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, speaking to foreign ambassadors before taking them on a tour of the area, said there were "many statements ... affirming the possession of accurate missiles by Hezbollah".

But he added: "This does not mean that these missiles are present in the vicinity of Beirut airport."

Bassil accompanied the diplomats, who included Russian and Iranian envoys, and journalists on a tour of three sites near the airport, including the grounds of a top division Lebanese football team, al-Ahed, which Israel identified as one of the sites.



At UN, Netanyahu displayed a satellite image of Beirut, identifying three locations near the airport where he said Lebanon's Hezbollah was converting missiles (AP)

In response, Netanyahu said later on Monday that Hezbollah had lied to the international community. The diplomats were taken to the football pitch, but not to the underground site adjacent to it where the missile factory was located, he said.

"The ambassadors should ask themselves why they waited three days until they carried out the tour. Hezbollah regularly makes sure to clean up sites that have been exposed," Netanyahu said in a statement.

Bassil, a political ally of Hezbollah, said Israel aimed to "falsify facts concerning Lebanon and to vocalise lies that carry the seeds of a threat that does not frighten us".

He added that Netanyahu had used the platform of the UN General Assembly "to justify another aggression on a sovereign country like Lebanon".

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said last month that the group had obtained precision rockets despite Israeli strikes on its fighters in Syria, where they are fighting alongside government forces.