Hezbollah Brings Media to Dispute Lebanon 'Missile Site' Mapped Out By Israel

Hezbollah officials hosted a tour of a Beirut industrial site in an attempt to dispel Israeli allegations that the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim movement hosted weapons there, but the Israeli military rejected the walkthrough as a publicity stunt.

Responding quickly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exhibited a map of alleged precision-guided missile storage and manufacturing sites in the Jnah, Laylaki and Choueifat areas of southern Beirut at a virtual United Nations General Assembly event Tuesday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah invited members of the media to see the locations for themselves, claiming no such weapons existed there.

"We will allow the media to enter at ten in the evening the facility that Netanyahu spoke about, so that the world would discover his lie," Nasrallah said during a previously-planned, televised speech.

"We do not put missiles in the port of Beirut or near a gas station, and we know very well where we should place our missiles," he added.

After journalists arrived at the site and began to inspect, a Hezbollah spokesperson told Newsweek that "with this tour, journalists saw directly and with their bare eyes what these sites are."

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) posted the coordinates of the sites, urging journalists to "get there before Nasrallah's moving trucks do."

In a statement later sent to Newsweek, the IDF dismissed the latest media tour organized by Hezbollah as a deception.

"The Hezbollah terror organization continues to jeopardize the lives of Lebanese civilians by hiding weapons and volatile chemicals in the heart of civilian society. Rather than clearing out the hazardous materials, Nasrallah sticks to his lies and organized a charade 'media tour' to support his lies," the IDF said.

"Hezbollah's denial today is another link in the organizations chain of lies: they lied about the mysterious explosion that occurred a week ago in a house that belonged to them in the southern village of Ain Qana, and they lied about the existence of attack tunnels infiltrating Israeli territory," it added.

lebanon, hezbollah, beirut, alleged, weapons, depot
Lebanese civilians, including Hezbollah supporters, carry an oxygen tank at the site of Beirut's southern suburb of Jnah which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was a weapons depot belonging to the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim movement on September 29. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah invited journalists to a media tour of the site during a previously-announced speech following the Israeli accusation. ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli armed forces reiterated the accusations it lodged against Hezbollah.

"Hezbollah continues to store dangerous weapons in the heart of civilian areas," the IDF told Newsweek. "Unfortunately, under the organization's current conduct, the next disaster is only a matter of time as Lebanese civilians are used as human shields by an Iran-funded terror organization."

A representative from Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that one of the sites was an iron workshop located near the Iranian embassy in Bir Hasan.

Footage circulated through social media showed crowds of people touring what appeared to be a warehouse. Some chanted pro-Hezbollah slogans.

The IDF earlier aerial photographs to Newsweek of what was alleged to be a precision missile manufacturing site between two gas companies in Jnah, as well as similar alleged sites underneath apartment buildings in Laylaki and Choueifat. Also included were three-dimensional renderings of the alleged sites.

The IDF lashed out at Hezbollah last week in the wake of another, smaller blast that hit the southern Lebanese town of Ain Qana. Hezbollah told Newsweek at the time that that explosion was caused by mines extracted in the wake of the group's 2006 war with Israel.

The latest accusations came less than two months after a massive early August blast at Beirut's downtown port, which was wrecked alongside large parts of the city. Hezbollah and Israel have both denied any responsibility for the explosion, caused by nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, but the IDF demarcated the location of the incident in the recent map and pointed to both recent blasts as examples of the dangers faced by Lebanese civilians.

"These PGM manufacturing sites, deliberately placed in the heart of populated areas in Beirut, are risking first and foremost Lebanese civilians," an accompanying Israeli military statement said. "The disaster which occurred in the Beirut Port last August and the explosion in September showcase the extent to which the lives, security, and property of Lebanese civilians are at risk."

"The State of Israel, and the IDF in particular, are monitoring these sites using advanced means, and are very knowledgeable in regards to the PGM project," the statement added. "They will continue to extensively operate against it with various methods and tools."

Hezbollah spokesperson Mohammed Afif, who led the tour at Jnah, mocked the Israeli claims and said the decision to open the factory was done quickly "to expose Netanyahu's lies."

The Israeli map also included the locations of alleged precision missile manufacturing sites unveiled in October 2018 at a dock and soccer field in Uzai as well as adjacent to Rafic Hariri International Airport, all also located in southern Beirut. Then too Hezbollah brought journalists to view the sites in person.

Israel, IDF, Beirut, Hezbollah, Jnah, Missiles
Illustrations shared September 29 by the Israel Defense forces detail an alleged Hezbollah precision guided missile manufacturing site in the southern Beirut neighborhood of Jnah. A Hezbollah-organized media tour turned up no clear evidence of weapons storage or manufacturing, though the IDF suggested the munitions may have been moved. Israel Defense Forces

Last year, Israel showed off what it said was a missile factory in the eastern Bekaa region. The Israeli military regularly flies aircraft and drones over Lebanese territory, a practice that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told Newsweek earlier this month was a violation of ceasefire agreements between the two countries that remain technically at war.

Like most of the Arab World, Lebanon never recognized Israel's 1948 establishment and instead supported a Palestinian state. The only Arab states with relations with Israel are Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the latter two of which signed their respective agreements just weeks ago.

Lebanon has instead grown closer to Iran and neighboring Syria, both of which support Hezbollah. Israel has conducted strikes on suspected Iran-linked positions in Syria, including those belonging to Hezbollah and Israeli forces fired twice this summer at Lebanese border positions following claims of infiltration attempts denied by Hezbollah.

Within the country, the Lebanese population has faced a series of worsening, overlapping crises including a financial crisis exacerbated by the effects of the novel coronavirus and humanitarian woes expanded by last month's port explosion. The country has since struggled to form a new government after yet another political collapse that has frustrated attempts by former colonizer France to institute reforms.

The United States, a close ally of Israel and Arab Sunni Muslim monarchies also opposed to Hezbollah and wary of Iran, has further pressured Lebanon economically, targeting two former Lebanese ministers for links to the powerful group earlier this month.