Hezbollah has built weapons storage facilities in the heart of the civilian population in Beirut, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed on Thursday in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
The missile storehouses are part of joint effort of Iran and Hezbollah to upgrade the organization’s missile forces, while Hezbollah’s goal is to convert its present missiles and build a long-range precision ground-to-ground missile force.
Israel has known of the sites Netanyahu exposed for about a year, but until now the information had been presented only to a small group of people inside the intelligence community.
Israel has acted in recent years in Syria and other countries to prevent these efforts, and locating these missiles in the heart of the Uzai neighborhood – near Beirut’s international airport – was intended to make it more difficult for the Israeli Air Force to attack the sites.
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Alongside the site near Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport, another missile storage facility is located underneath the soccer stadium of a Hezbollah-affiliated team. Another storage site for ground-to-ground missiles is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, near civilian buildings and only 500 meters from the airport’s runway.
Other similar sites exist in the heart of Beirut's civilian population and elsewhere in Lebanon.
Israeli defense officials believe that manufacturing facilities for the precision missiles have not yet been built inside Lebanon, despite Hezbollah and Iran's wishes.
The project to build precision-guided missiles is Hezbollah’s flagship program in preparation for another round of hostilities with Israel. Hezbollah is upgrading its missile forces using Iranian knowledge, training and funding. Tehran ships the necessary resources via Syria, and Israel has been attempting to attack these shipments.
The attack last week by the Israeli Air Force on such a shipment is what led to the Syrian anti-aircraft forces shooting down the Russian spy plane, killing the 15 crew members aboard the plane. In his speech, Netanyahu threatened Hezbollah explicitly: “I have a message for Hezbollah today: Israel knows, Israel also knows what you’re doing. Israel knows where you’re doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it.”
Netanyahu presented an aerial photograph of the airport in Beirut to prove his point about Hezbollah using innocent Lebanese citizens as human shields. “Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran’s aggression. We will continue to act against you in Syria. We will act against you in Lebanon. We will act against you in Iraq. We will act against you whenever, and wherever. We must act to defend our state and to defend our people.”