Lebanese Minister Denies Telegraph's Weapon Claims

Lebanon responds to claims on Hezbollah smuggling weapons, as officials counter media allegations and conduct tours to reaffirm facility security.

Published June 24, 2024 - 18:06pm

4 minutes read
Lebanon
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In a series of assertions, Lebanese officials have robustly refuted allegations made by Britain's Telegraph newspaper regarding the smuggling of weapons through Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport. Portraying the claims as baseless, Lebanese authorities emphasized their commitment to ensuring the security and reputation of the airport.

Lebanese Minister of Public Works and Transport, Ali Hamieh, passionately addressed these allegations during a press conference, highlighting that Israel has conducted approximately 1,000 violations of Lebanese airspace. Hamieh vehemently denied the assertions, stating that there was no smuggling of weapons through Rafic Hariri Airport. He underscored the integrity of Lebanese customs, which play a critical role in protecting the airport.

Simultaneously, Fadi Al-Hassan, the Director of Beirut Airport, acknowledged that despite these spurious claims, operations remained unaffected. Al-Hassan highlighted an uptick in airport traffic, with 110 flights arriving and departing recently, surpassing the numbers from June of the previous year. He attributed these rumors to an Israeli campaign aimed at tarnishing the image of the airport and Lebanon, deterring tourists and affecting summer travel plans.

The security at Rafic Hariri International Airport, one of the busiest in the region, has come under scrutiny following the publication of allegations by the Telegraph. The British newspaper reported that Hezbollah allegedly stored a significant amount of Iranian-supplied weapons and missiles within the airport's precincts. It mentioned that mysterious large boxes, often arriving via flights from Iran, were allegedly not inspected, thus raising concerns over potential security breaches. The report also quoted unknown sources from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which purportedly supported these claims.

However, the head of the Union of Air Transport in Lebanon, Ali Mohsen, brands the report as deceitful, claiming it lacked any substantive proof. Mohsen condemned the false narratives, asserting that these claims only endanger civilian workers and passengers using the airport. The IATA, distancing itself from the Telegraph's report, confirmed it neither supplied the information to the paper nor endorsed the assertions.

In a robust response to the ongoing speculations, Hamieh announced that Lebanon was preparing to file a lawsuit against the Telegraph. Lebanese authorities are determined to defend the airport's reputation, a facility that has been a recurrent target of Israeli hostility. During the conference, Hamieh reiterated the historical context of Israeli violations and the shift from military attacks to media incursions aimed at disturbing Lebanon's stability.

Furthermore, the heightened rhetoric surrounding these allegations is linked to broader geopolitical dynamics. The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, recently noted the potential risk of a full-blown conflict involving Hezbollah, with repercussions extending far beyond Lebanon. In the backdrop, diplomatic measures by the United States, including proposals for a buffer zone along the Lebanon-Israel border, have seen limited success, reflecting the complexity and deep-seated mistrust among the involved parties.

Hamieh called for international media and foreign diplomats to conduct independent tours of the airport to dispel any doubts regarding its security protocols. To underscore the transparency and defense against these allegations, an invitation was extended to ambassadors and global media representatives, resulting in a comprehensive visit to the facility. Among the visiting delegation were diplomats from the EU, India, China, Japan, and Egypt, accompanied by Lebanon's Interior, Information, and Tourism ministers. The tour included the cargo holds and passenger halls, with officials reaffirming that the airport complied with global security standards.

Egypt's ambassador to Lebanon, Alaa Moussa, expressed solidarity by underscoring the visit's purpose to affirm support for Lebanon and mitigate regional tensions. He called on the international community for calm and a positive outlook to resolve area-wide crises, further reflecting the concerted diplomatic efforts to stabilize the Middle Eastern geopolitical landscape.

Conclusively, while the Lebanese government actively counters disinformation campaigns, the incident has spotlighted the vulnerability of crucial infrastructure to geopolitical maneuvers. The broader implication is a reaffirmation of Lebanon's defensive posture amid escalating tensions and volatile media narratives.

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