Sep 29, 2020 - World

Netanyahu claims Hezbollah storing missiles at Beirut site

Photo: Screengrab via UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented what he claimed were aerial photos of a Hezbollah "missile depot" in the heart of Beirut during a prerecorded speech Tuesday to the UN General Assembly.

The other side: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah quickly took to the organization’s TV station to respond to Netanyahu's speech, which he said was an effort to incite the Lebanese people against Hezbollah.

  • Nasrallah said Hezbollah's press office would take reporters from the local and international media to the site Netanyahu mentioned to prove it's not a missile facility.  

The backstory: Hezbollah has been under pressure in the wake of last month's port explosion in Beirut, both because it's a major player in Lebanon's dysfunctional politics and because it partially controlled the port where ammonium nitrate had been left unsecured (the Iran-linked group is not known to bear any direct responsibility for the disaster).

What he's saying: "The next explosion could be here," Netanyahu said, using a laser pointer to highlight a site he said was tucked into a residential neighborhood and next door to a gas company. He included photos of the site itself and provided its direct coordinates.

  • Netanyahu called on the residents of the area, Jnah, to pressure Hezbollah to shut down the alleged missile facility, which is near Beirut's international airport.
  • “I say to the people of Jnah, you’ve got to act now. You’ve got to protest this. Because if this thing explodes, it’s another tragedy. ... You should tell them, tear these depots down," Netanyahu said.
  • The big picture: This is a familiar tactic from Netanyahu, who has used previous addresses to international audiences to present what he describes as damning evidence of malign behavior from Iran and its associates.

The latest: Hezbollah's media chief, Mohammed Afif, invited reporters to see the warehouse Netanyahu mentioned in his speech, which he said was owned by a private Lebanese citizen.

  • The reporters posted pictures and videos showing an industrial workshop with welding machinery. The owner told the reporters his workshop was used for cutting steel.  
Go deeper