Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said on Monday that Israel was seeking to "justify another aggression" with false allegations of missile sites belonging to Iran-backed Hezbollah.
During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Hezbollah built weapons storage facilities in the heart of the civilian population in Beirut, near the city's international airport.
Lebanon's Foreign Ministry convened foreign ambassadors to respond to Netanyahu's charges and plans to take them on a tour of at least one of the locations in Beirut.
Addressing the ambassadors, Bassil said it is not rational for Hezbollah nor in Lebanon's interest to store missiles of the kind Israel claims are hidden in Beirut. Bassil added that the Lebanese government would not agree to the deployment of missiles in the area of the airport. "We are certain that these are empty claims and carry no truth," Bassil said.
The foreign minister said he did not discuss Israel's claims with Hezbollah's leaders "because the Lebanese government is not a committee whose role is to expose Israel's claims."
Bassil added that Lebanon is committed to international law and the decisions of the international community, but that the country cannot be neutral and naive when it comes to defending itself. "Israel will never frighten us. We are aware of its weakness when it threatens a country like Lebanon," he said.
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.
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.
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 acted in recent years in Syria and other countries to prevent these efforts, and locating these missiles in the heart of the Uzai neighborhood was intended to make it more difficult for the Israeli Air Force to attack the sites.
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