Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that Israel has offered the Lebanese army aid multiple times.
Gantz, who gave a pre-recorded speech at a conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that Lebanon has become "an Island of instability" and its citizens "are not our enemies."
Gantz said that the Israeli military had offered aid to Lebanon four times in the past year, including last week. Israel, Gantz said, wishes to offer the Lebanese army aid amid a shortage in basic supplies and have lost over 5,000 soldiers recently. The offer, coordinated through the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, was aimed to help the army "face the strengthening of Hezbollah under Iran's support," Gantz said.
A senior Israeli official denied Gantz's claims on Wednesday night. "Israel didn't offer assistance to Lebanon army," the source said, "Israel offered humanitarian aid to the people of Lebanon through the UN following an explosion in one of Lebanon's ports recently."
The defense minister also addressed threats posed by Iran. He expressed confidence in the U.S.'s abilities to bring to a "halt the Iranian nuclear project." Gantz also said that the U.S. and Israel are promoting "operational cooperation" in face of a possible nuclear breakthrough by Tehran.
A senior diplomat however said that Israel didn't offer to assist the Lebanese army, but offered to provide humanitarian aid to Lebanese people mediated by the United Nations after the port blast in Beirut.
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Earlier on Wednesday, Gantz began a surprise visit on Wednesday to Bahrain, his spokesperson said.
It is the first visit of an Israeli defense minister to Bahrain. Gantz was welcomed at the airport by Bahrain Defense Minister Abdulla bin Hasan Al Nuaimi.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke in the conference and announced that Israel Defense Forces will start using a laser-based missile interception system 'within a year.'
The prime minister says that after the laser interception system becomes operational, "The equation will change – they'll invest a lot, and us a little." Each interceptor for the Iron Dome – the missile defense system currently in use – costs about 170,000 shekels (nearly $53,000), and each incoming rocket usually requires more than one interceptor.
According to Bennett, the system can also serve "our friends in the region, who are also vulnerable to serious threats from Iran and its proxies."