Hezbollah’s chief rejects Israeli arms-smuggling claim

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The head of the Lebanese political and armed movement Hezbollah has denied using Beirut’s seaport to import arms in response to an accusation by Israel’s UN envoy.

Nasrallah said that the Israeli comments were aimed at bringing multinational forces to impose controls over Lebanon’s sea, air and land borders [File: Aziz Taher/Reuters]

“I completely deny the claim of the Israeli representative in the Security Council that Hezbollah uses the Beirut port to transfer weapons or weapon components into Lebanon,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday.

The head of the Iran-backed movement added that the Israeli comments were aimed at bringing multinational forces to impose controls over Lebanon’s sea, air and land borders.

On Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said that in 2018 and 2019, “Israel found that Iran and the Quds forces have begun to advance the exploitation of civilian maritime channels”.

He said Beirut port “is now the port of Hezbollah”.

During a Security Council session, Danon presented a map that allegedly indicated transfer routes including Syria’s Damascus airport and Beirut’s international airport.

Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN, Amal Mudallali, said the accusation was tantamount to “direct threats” to Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure.

Iran set up Hezbollah in the early 1980s to battle Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in 2000.

In 2006, Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in the border region in which more than 1,100 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 159 Israelis, were killed.

During that war, the armed Shia group was able to overwhelm Israel’s ground invasion of southern Lebanon and attack military and civilian targets, undermining internal Israeli support for the war and spurring regional support for Hezbollah’s military successes against a state army.

Since then, Hezbollah has become one of the main supporting actors in the war in Syria and tensions with Israel have remained high.

Israel has accused Iran of supporting Hezbollah with money and arms to continue fighting in Syria and retain its power in Lebanon.

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